Despite the weekly avalanche of complaints about the low cost airline Ryanair I have always defended their sometimes questionable business ethics and their grotesquely bad customer services on the basis that if it wasn’t for Michael O’Leary then we wouldn’t have all these affordable travel opportunities in the first place but what I saw at Fez airport was appalling and I feel compelled to write about here. Write about it here because complaining direct to the airline is both difficult and a waste of time because the company does not take critical feedback seriously.
After we had checked in and gone through the security procedures we sat and waited for our flight in the tiny departure lounge next to the duty free store. After about an hour or so a group of three or four young Moroccan men turned up and began to produce large empty holdall bags from their checked hand luggage and then they made for duty free where they blatantly filled these bags with literally hundreds of packets of cigarettes and saved some space for some cheap spirits as well. There was no attempt to be discreet about this as they did it in full view of everyone in the departure lounge, enjoyed drawing attention to themselves and appeared to have the cooperation of the shop and airport security staff as well all of whom were rewarded with a carrier bag full of what were clearly backhanders.
Now, I am not against someone trying to carry a few extra duty free goods through customs if they want to take the risk of being caught but I was shocked by the attitude towards this by the Ryanair staff. First of all the security staff escorted these men without priority boarding cards to the front of the priority boarding line while the Ryanair staff at the gate turned a blind eye. I suppose Ryanair might say that these are not actual Ryanair staff but they were wearing Ryanair tabards and therefore representing the company and when it came time to board these men who now had two or even three large bags each just swept past the gate staff and made their way to the plane without any sort of challenge.
What has irritated me about this is that at UK and European airports vigilant Ryanair staff are always poised and ready to pounce on anyone with an oversized or overweight bag to slap an additional charge on them but here there was no attempt to enforce the company rules. I don’t mind the rules and I always keep within them but I considered this blatant inconsistency to be unacceptable.
They still had to get on the plane and if the gate staff weren’t actual Ryanair employees then the cabin crew certainly were so I remained hopeful that they would deal with the situation according to Ryanair policy and refuse to take the extra bags on board. Imagine my surprise (no, shock actually) therefore when they too ignored the oversized bags and even assisted the men to wedge them into the overhead lockers. Were they expecting a backhander as well or was it just too much trouble or perhaps too dangerous to confront the issue I wondered. Either way it is unfair to passengers to enforce company rules in some locations but not in others and during the flight home I composed a letter of complaint in my head but by the end of the flight it all seemed rather pointless.
After we landed and cleared passport control we walked through the green light ‘nothing to declare’ channel and I have to say that I was delighted that one of these cigarette smugglers had been stopped and the contents of his bag were being attentively scrutinised by the customs officer, he had been caught and was in trouble but with the help and assistance of Ryanair staff the other two or three had managed to get their contraband through UK customs.