Ryanair Passenger: I Was Detained For Complaining About Food

Ryanair, the discount airline known for its dirt cheap prices, headline-making PR stunts and occasionally outrageous ideas for what passengers should pay fees for, is defending itself against allegations from a passenger who says he was detained by police at a Norwegian airport because he’d been vocally displeased with his on-board food service.

The 52-year-old Norwegian man was en route from Germany to Norway last week when he got the pleasure of paying for the meal on his Ryanair flight.

Explains the man:

At no time did I even raise my voice with the girl. I was very calm and in control and she was very nice and not angry at all. I first ordered a hot meal which they didn’t have and then I asked for a second hot meal which they didn’t have either. I asked the girl what they actually had and I ordered a “chicken premium sandwich”, which cost €4.50 [$5.82] and was supposed to have been “freshly made”.

My money was in my jacket in the overhead locker so I told her I would pay her when I was able to get up again. The sandwich looked nice and healthy but when I tasted it, it was soft and rubbery and nothing at all like it looked in the photo. I called the girl and said I was not paying for that. I asked if I could change it for a chocolate muffin. She said no.

At this point, the passenger says the cabin crew member informed him she would have to report him to the authorities if he didn’t pay for the sandwich.

He continues:

When she told me the police would be contacted, I thought it was a joke and I fell asleep for a while. She wanted to take the sandwich and menu card back but I kept them to show to the police. Three men in orange police jackets came on board and took me to a room. I was not handcuffed.

The passenger says he was ultimately released by the police and that he doesn’t expect any charges will be filed against him. He claims the airline overreacted to the situation by involving the authorities.

However, a rep for Ryanair sees it differently:

The captain on flight FR8904 requested police assistance on arrival after a passenger became disruptive in flight. This matter was addressed with the passenger by police on arrival. Ryanair crew only request such assistance when deemed absolutely necessary based on their assessment of the disruptive passenger behaviour and their reading of the situation.

This all comes a very short time after United made headlines when they removed a passenger for asking whether or not there would be a meal served on the flight.

What do you think? Did Ryanair do the right thing by contacting the police? Or could this situation have been worked out on the plane without incident?

Ryanair denies overreacting in sandwich incident [Irish Times]


Edit Your Comment

  1. benh999 says:

    Nice misleading headline. He was detained because he refused to pay for his food, not for complaining about it.

    • ktetch says:

      he didn’t leave with it, my understanding is that he was keeping it ;controlled’ to present as evidence to the authorities when the aircraft landed (either government authorities, or the groundstaff) that it was deceptive, and possibly unsafe to eat.

      • benh999 says:

        If I walk into a restaurant, order something, then refuse to pay, it is the restaurant’s prerogative to call the authorities. It’s not like he was arrested or charged with a crime.

        • myCatCracksMeUp says:

          Well anyone call call the authorities anytime for any reason. It doesn’t mean that it is a case for the authorities. When I’ve ordered food and it arrived and didn’t look as it was described, or didn’t taste good, I’ve returned the food and declined to pay for it. If I eat more than a bite or maybe two of it, then I pay for it.

        • ktetch says:

          right, but at the same time, ryanair didn’t say ‘we called authorities over a passenger not liking the overpriced and potentially lethal food’. They said it was because ‘a passenger became disruptive in flight. This matter was addressed with the passenger by police on arrival. Ryanair crew only request such assistance when deemed absolutely necessary based on their assessment of the disruptive passenger behaviour and their reading of the situation.’

          Their statement has little relation to what happened. also, in a restaurant, they would at least inspect the food. If I went to McD ordered a burger (after 2 failed orders) and it was not as advertised, I’d complain to the store manager, who would work with me. The cashier wouldn’t call the cops straight away, then put out a statement saying ‘the customer was being disruptive, and we only call the police after blah blah’

          Cabin Crew have gone power mad. they quite literally have the power to order people’s arrest these days. You think that doesn’t seem like the easiest way to deal with any ‘problem passengers’ (ie, those that don’t accept the easy way the trolly-dolly wants to do it)

        • Span_Wolf says:

          Not if you take a single bite and say, “This is awful, I’m not paying!”

          • Big Mama Pain says:

            Just because you took a bite of something in a restaurant and didn’t like it, doesn’t mean you are getting out of paying for it. Sure, it would be completely dickish to not allow the customer to exchange it for something else or take it off the bill, but they’re under no obligation to do that. Refusing to pay for it would make it theft.

        • Minze says:

          I think this was a bit different. He was dissatisfied with the purchase and preemptively got a refund. I would say that a lot of the how this was handled depends on what constituted his “after tasting it”. If he took one bite and tried returning it because he was dissatisfied, that is acceptable to me, just as it would be in a restaurant. If he ate half the sandwich then he should have kept it and paid.

          If airlines are going to start acting like restaurants (buy food), shipping services (pay for luggage) and sporting events (reserve seats) they they need to be ready for the complaints when those services aren’t provided adequately.

        • thisistobehelpful says:

          Generally if you order food, take one bite, and refuse to eat the rest because it’s so digusting, the restaurant won’t charge you for that. It may even be legal to refuse to pay for something when that happens.

        • ModernDemagogue says:

          Not if you’re not given something edible or reasonably close to what you believe you’ve ordered. If you order a bottle of wine, and its corked, you don’t pay for it. How is this any different from ordering a sandwich on a flight? He didn’t get what he asked for, and when she forced the issue, he only retained it as evidence. Lesson of the story? Use a credit card, note your discontent, and simply charge it back.

          The problem comes from the Flight Attendant being poorly educated in game theory and not understanding that a threat to call the police would not elicit compliance, and in fact would only escalate the situation if she is dealing with an educated man. She had no intent to call the police when she issued the threat, she intended to get him to pay for the sandwich. But since he was aware he was legally in the right, he had no reason to heed her warning. His lack of serious regard for her threat, caused her to feel belittled and powerless, which then caused her to act emotionally, not rationally.

          The negative PR for such an incident is easily greater than $5.81, and should he have been treated more carelessly by the authorities, potentially astronomically larger. I’m surprised that the location is not charging RyanAir and the stewardess for abusive of their emergency response systems.

          More so, I’m concerned about the frequency of these misuses of security resources. Buying a plane ticket does not include conditions attached that one must be courteous or reasonable to airline staff (unless some form of reciprocal arrangement is made where they give you treatment in kind), and there are all sorts of things like, a baby screaming which would count as “disruptive.” Disruptive behavior is not a threat to the safety of the flight, and if any normal disruptions or lack of courtesy are to be taken seriously, ALL forms of disruption need to be handled that way.

        • Difdi says:

          Suppose you go to a restaurant, and order food from the menu. Shortly thereafter you get informed they’re out. So you order something else. Turns out they’re out of that too. Finally you order a third thing, it arrives and it’s not as described in the menu, but you’re hungry so you take a bite anyway. It tastes spoiled/rotten. You inform the waitress of this and ask for something else that isn’t rotten, and are refused.

          No reasonable person would pay at that point. And no reasonable person would call it dine & dash. Even most insane people wouldn’t call it disruptive behavior on an airliner.

    • elganador says:

      Then why did the airline phrase it as “disruptive behaviour”, rather than “theft”? Because it’s easier to throw anything under such a label nowadays and sweep it under the rug. If other prospective customers of this airline were to just read the airline’s response, they’ll shrug it off as just some drunk loon making a scene and go ahead and continue to use the airline.

      And it’s easier to get law enforcement involved by using this vague term to have them just take care of a problem that airlines have forgotten how to do since they have no customer service capability any longer.

  2. FatLynn says:

    He took something and did not pay for it. That’s not legal.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      He didn’t eat it. except for the initial terrible bites.

      Should the airline’s food service have different rules than the rest of the food service industry? In an restaurant, you would not be detained for telling the waiter your food was unacceptable. Most restaurants “make it right” and some even offer you compensation for a bad experience.

      Ryanair, apparently, has you arrested.

      • benh999 says:

        Ryan Air is a dirt cheap budget airline that does not make its money by eating the cost of food served that customers didn’t like. It is beyond me why the sense of entitlement seems to be so much higher with people using budget companies. This kind of reminds me of the attitudes I’ve seen on $10 Chinatown buses between Boston and NYC.

        • myCatCracksMeUp says:

          Yep – here is the whole “sense of entitlement” OP bashing I was expecting. How DARE the man expect edible food? How Entitled he must feel he is if he doesn’t want to pay for inedible food.

          It doesn’t matter whether you’re at a fancy restaurant, at a fast food place, or on an airplane – if you receive crappy food you tell the person serving the food that it’s no good and that you do not want it, and then you do not pay for it, (or in the case of the fast food place – you get your money back). In none of these places it it a “sense of entitlement” that causes a patron to reject the food.

        • ModernDemagogue says:

          How is it the passengers problem how RyanAir does or does not make money?

          All he wanted was something he could eat. He didn’t get that. RyanAir’s financial condition is really neither here nor there.

    • JamieSueAustin says:

      Dine and Dash is illegal.
      Ordering something, finding that it is not up to the standards it was advertised, then refusing to pay for the poor product, and requesting an exchange is not theft. It’s being assertive about your rights as a consumer to receive the product you pay for.

      Think of it this way… you hire a painter to paint your house and instead of covering the walls he smears them with globs and leaves the rest unfinished. Do you pay for it? After all, you now have the paint spattered walls, even if they are not what you ordered. Would refusing to pay unless he fixed the order be stealing? If you think so then you probably get screwed over a lot in life.

      • RickN says:

        He ordered something, got what he ordered, and didn’t like it.

        Very different from ordering something and getting something else (your example).

        You hire a painter, he paints your walls, and you decide you don’t like the color you picked out. Do you pay the painter? Of course you do. You ordered something, got what you ordered and decided you didn’t like it — still gotta pay.

        • Zen says:

          Not exactly true:

          He ordered a sandwich based on a representation in a photo that “looked nice and healthy but when I tasted it, it was soft and rubbery and nothing at all like it looked in the photo”. He ordered what was advertised in the photo. The advertising misrepresented the goods sold, so, no, he didn’t get what he ordered.

          • eyesack is the boss of the DEFAMATION ZONE says:

            Technically true, but utterly ridiculous. They have fast food restaurants in Europe. They have fast food advertising in Europe. And unless the McDonalds staff over there spend 20 minutes per Royale with Cheese, this guy is used to a difference between advertising and reality. I don’t even know why he bothered getting airline food – the airports look about 400 miles away. This was maybe an hour-long flight.

            I know that most airlines in Europe are better, but it’s Ryanair, it’s airline food, and actually a quite inexpensive sandwich. Suck it up, 52-year old Norwegian man.

            • myCatCracksMeUp says:

              I think Ryanair should suck it up.

              Their behavior was ridiculous. If the man ate the whole sandwich and then complained about it and refused to pay for it, then they’d have a case.

              As it is, it just shows how scummy they are.

            • Gtmac says:

              Why do you even read Consumerist.com? Your premise is antithetical to the purpose of the site. You seem to be saying that because false advertising is wide-spread and the average quality of an airline meal is low that that’s the way it should be and it’s a consumer’s fault for expecting more or that they should just knuckle under and take it like everyone else.

              Thankfully there are those that feel differently.

              • eyesack is the boss of the DEFAMATION ZONE says:

                I agree with what you’ve said entirely, but to be good consumers we should be realists for today, idealists for tomorrow. It’s just not realistic to expect a picture of food to reflect reality – any regular person who’s tried to recreate a meal they saw on the Food Network knows that.

                Would it be nice if the food tasted and looked good? Of course, and any airline that tried to do a better job would (I hope) be rewarded with more revenue. But that’s just not how things are, especially on the Dollar General of airlines.

                • Gtmac says:

                  Yes, but today’s realism must also be accompanied by action or tomorrow’s idealism will remain just that. In this case, regardless of whether it’s realistic to expect food to taste a certain way based on a photo, taking appropriate action when one does not get value for one’s money is important.

                  Now of course the “appropriateness” of this man’s action and the value proposition for the food are up for debate.

            • jessjj347 says:

              In no way can you expect food to be as good as “it looks” in advertisements. Have you ever seen a commercial for food? It always looks better than reality.

              Have you ever ordered from a diner or pizza place and gotten food that didn’t look like the pictures in the menu? The pictures in the menu are stock photos!

              This guy is ridiculous…he should’ve either paid or given back the sandwich. Keeping the sandwich as “evidence” is equally as ridiculous. “Hello officers. Would you eat this? Go on…try it…”

        • myCatCracksMeUp says:

          Exactly what Zen said. If someone advertises an item, and includes a photo of it, then they need to deliver that item as described and as the picutre depicts. No one has to pay for something that is not what they ordered. In this case the sandwich was NOT what he ordered – he ordered a sandwich that was edible.

  3. ktetch says:

    Ryanair SERIOUSLY over-reacted.

    These days ‘disruptive’ means anything that isn’t ‘sat down shut up and let us do what we want’

    It’s frankly disgusting.

  4. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    We really need to better define when the airline can involve the authorities. There are too many incidents popping up where it’s seems out of line to get police involved, and right now airlines get a free pass to do so at the drop of a hat.

    In addition to this incident, the alluded to incident of asking about a served meal, there was the orange juice woman.

    All Im asking for is some more finite and spelled-out rules, and punishment when those rules are followed.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      *aren’t followed, obviously

    • Bohemian says:

      The airlines seem to be abusing this quite often. They are wasting resources that should be reserved for real threats to safety, not someone annoyed about a bad sandwich or because they asked a benign question. Maybe there needs to be a penalty if the airlines call in a frivolous disruption claim.

  5. Angus99 says:

    His mistake was confusing any aspect of the airline experience with the concept of “customer”. Here’s guessing his name winds up on a list, as well.

    • watch me boogie says:

      These days, attempting to assert your consumer rights on an airplane will go about as well as attempting to assert your constitutional rights when being stopped by a police officer. Both situations have become the same: document and then complain later. It can do you no good to speak up at the time.

  6. NarcolepticGirl says:

    I really don’t know if they did the right thing – It would be nice to hear what other people on the flight said. if the “passenger became disruptive in flight”, I’m sure people around him would have noticed.

    • ttw1 says:


    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      THIS. Authorities should interview passengers when any allogations are filed by the flight staff. If the staff’s allegations can be substantiated, then by all means handle the passenger accordingly. If not, it should probably be dropped. I get that a passenger can politely and quietly tell the air staff he has a gun, and those situations are different. But if a passenger is being a pain, more than just the steward would know.

    • watch me boogie says:

      Thirded. We’ve all seen how different the perspectives can be in a situation like this. One person’s “reasonable” is another person’s “batsh!t crazy.”

    • zmnatz says:

      My guess since the airline’s explanation didn’t elaborate at all on “disturbance”, is that the man wasn’t doing a thing. Normally, they actually say what he was doing if he was actually doing something disturbing.

      For example, if a man is shouting and screaming on the plain, “The passenger was causing a disturbance by shouting and screaming…” would be in the statement.

  7. Sian says:

    Calling this ‘disruptive’ is a dick move by either the Ryanair pilot or the cabin crew. Apparently calmly expressing dissatisfaction is now disruptive!

    • jessjj347 says:

      We really only have his side of the story. To be fair, what he thinks is “calm” may not be.

      • myCatCracksMeUp says:

        If he wasn’t calm then I think Ryan Air would’ve elaborated on exactly how the man was disruptive. The fact that they gave no details about how he was disruptive makes me believe the man is telling the truth.

  8. Paul in SF says:

    At least he didn’t eat and run.

  9. pb5000 says:

    I’d say he was being disruptive, but not to the point where security needed to be involved and charges pressed. He was being a bit of an ass, IMO his disrespect and rudeness to the flight attendant counts as disruptive behavior.

    • Judah says:

      I generally agree with you, but if the sandwich was bad enough that he decided to risk police contact, then maybe he shouldn’t have had to pay for it.

    • JamieSueAustin says:

      I think there is a big difference between someone being a dick and someone being a security threat. Police are there for protection and to maintain safety when there is a security risk. They are not there to mitigate customer service disputes. Airlines now used the threat of police to avoid having to deal with customers or provide customer service. That needs to stop.

      • pb5000 says:

        I agree

      • yusefyk says:

        On the other hand, he ordered food, rendered it unsaleable, then refused to pay. He then called the airline’s bluff and they called him on it.

        Sorry to say, but if someone did that to me as a private individual, I’d certainly call the police. The airline did the right thing.

        • myCatCracksMeUp says:

          You really think “he ordered food, rendered it unsaleable, then refused to pay”??

          I think RyanAir gave him food that was substantially different than what they advertised. As in, they advertised edible food and they gave him inedible food. There is nothing wrong with refusing to pay for inedible food.

      • El_Red says:

        Airlines should have a private “dick” police. With bright yellow uniforms. And leave “disruptive” cases to them. And real police for real threats.

    • SkullCowboy says:

      Disrespect and rudeness? Where did you get that from? From the sparse info available there is no indication that he was either of those or disruptive in any way. He simply refused to pay for a sandwich that he considered inedible. How did this impair or impede the flight crew in their duties or cause a potentially unsafe environment that endangered the aircraft or other passengers? Those are criteria for disruptive behavior.

  10. AllanG54 says:

    If I was on the flight crew I would have had him locked in the bathroom. Oh wait, they would have charged him for that too. I wonder though, if when you use the bathroom you don’t flush because you’re not using their water and chemicals.

  11. pantheonoutcast says:

    I gotta take the side of Ryanair on this one. The man is complaining about a sandwich he bought on a plane. Is this the first time he’s ever flown? Ask any 1980’s-era comedian: airline food is horrible. Freshly made? Is he serious? They’re in a metal tube six miles in the sky. Does he honestly think the stewardess skipped out to the herb garden for some cilantro? It didn’t look anything like the photo? Has this man ever left his house? Food in general never looks anything the photo on the menu or advertisement.

    Plus there’s the whole, “I’ll pay for it when I feel like it” attitude. We’re only hearing one side of the story. Yeah, airlines pull some real nonsense now and again, but I can’t automatically take this guy at his word.

    • myCatCracksMeUp says:

      You’re not agreeing with the consumer??? How shocking! /sarcasm

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        Do your homework; I never agree with anyone who is in the wrong, whether it be customer, corporation, or anyone in between. I realize that calling a spade a spade is not popular nowadays, but someone needs to do it.

    • Hoot says:

      “Does he honestly think the stewardess skipped out to the herb garden for some cilantro?” Made me laugh out loud.

      Agreed. The flight attendant was actually doing him a nice favor by letting him pay after he could get up. She could have made him wait or not have any because he could not exchange payment for the goods right then. Or, taken it away from him when he couldn’t pay.

      The right course of action would have been to pay but write a strongly worded letter (with pictures?) to the airline and perhaps gotten a credit or something from their customer service.

  12. Lear100 says:

    I like how the police were calm about it. If this happened in the U.S., this guy would be in Guantanamo by now.

  13. Nuc says:

    Maybe we need all airplane cabins to have cameras installed in them. Hmmm…..

  14. sfldan says:

    If I were in a restaurant and the food was bad and I sent it back without eating, I certainly would not pay for the meal, so why should it be any different on an airplane?

    The question of whether the guy was actually calm or he was disruptive is a different matter. If he actually was calm, they were simply trying to strong-arm him into paying for something no one else would have paid for either.

    • vastrightwing says:

      1) Because the flight crew has power to coerce you into compliance. A waitress at a restaurant does not. 2) Because food on an airplane is a convenience item, it is not why you bought a ticket. Bad food on an airplane will not affect their bottom line. 3) The stewardess does not live off of tips for good service or good food.

      • ModernDemagogue says:

        Actually, this is the reason the problem got this far.

        The stewardess believed she had the power to coerce him into compliance. The man knew she did not, and called her bluff. This enraged her, so rather trying to coerce him with the threat of involving the police, she now actually had to do what she threatened (or thought she had to).

        Its a fairly rudimentary game theory mistake that stupid people tend to make. They don’t play out scenarios they get involved in rationally. If anything the passenger thought, I will have a brief conversation with the police and be on my way, or, she won’t actually call — there is a slight chance the police would make him pay, but he would certainly not be arrested, and such a scenario would actually be an upside because then he would sue, and win. Her options were limited to, let it go, and the airline loses the $1 or less that the sandwich actually cost them, or escalate and create an incident which at best would be damaging PR wise, and could end up being financially pretty bad.

        People actually have far less of an ability to coerce you into doing anything you don’t want to do than you think. Being “disruptive” is not a crime, going on a plane does not mean you surrender your civil rights at the body scanner (which I will never go through, good fucking luck making me) and if you’re not being a total prick, chances are your fellow passengers will stand up for you. If I found myself in such a situation I’d start my phone video recording so as to have an objective account.

    • Big Mama Pain says:

      You would absolutely be in the wrong if you refused to pay for anything you’ve ordered in a restaurant, eaten or not. There is no obligation on the part of the restaurant to take it off your bill, although it would be extremely rare that they WOULDN’T.

      • Difdi says:

        You are under no obligation to pay for something that is not as it was advertised when you ordered it. Whether that be a case of not matching the photograph, or paying for a sandwich and getting a tiny bag of peanuts. This goes doubly so if you order food and it arrives in a spoiled and/or rotten condition.

  15. Nighthawke says:

    Not. Buying. Ryanair’s. Excuse. One. Bit.

    That PR may not have full grasp as to what happened on that flight, or how the overall conduct of the passenger was.

    Ryanair owes him some refunds in the form of cash, not credit for tix.

  16. vastrightwing says:

    When you get on a plane, keep your mouth shut. The flight crew has the power to do really bad things to you if they don’t like you. For what ever reason. Children, on the other hand can pretty much do whatever they want. As an adult, you do not have that power. If you don’t like the food, too bad, airlines have really sucky food, that’s the way it is. yes, they over charge for what they offer, again, too bad. It is what it is. My rule is to buy my ticket from point A to point B for the least amount possible. I keep quiet and don’t want the flight crew (or anyone else) to notice me. My flight was good if I make it alive to my destination without missing a connection (I have extremely low expectations for carriage). The whole experience of flying is so bad today that I drive more now than ever. Yes, I’d rather risk my life on the road then deal with the airlines and all the peripheral infrastructure involved.

    • jessjj347 says:

      Actually, some of the food I got in the non-cheap European airlines was good. I had a sandwich on an Italian airline that was really, really good. Maybe this guy never flew one of the budget airlines before?

  17. Diebesbeute says:

    A colleague of mine used RyanAir to fly from England to Austria. The flight was REALLY cheap, hence the reason for him using it. Anyway, when he was done with his business and wanted to fly back, the day he had booked to fly back, the flight was cancelled and that was it. Apparently the terms and conditions were such that they could cancel any leg of the flight due to underbooking and he was SOL. So he had to pay for a night in a hotel and buy a new ticket for the return the next day. I think it still ended up being cheaper than a BA or LH flight, but still…. I am never going to fly Ryanair.

  18. jjmcubed says:

    With the airlines having so much power over you(to have you arrested) over a “dispute”, maybe it is time to have some recording in the cabin of the plane. At the very least the authorities would be able to see if a passenger was yelling.

    The first thing I would do is talk to the other passengers on the flight to see if they can be a witness for me. SOME of these flight attendants that think they have the right to ruin your life because they are having a bad day. Think at it this way. Your word against theirs. You could end up with a felony that can have job repercussions for the rest of your life. Reminds me of a cop that wants to take you in because you don’t “respect” them enough. Oh, and my father is a cop and I understand what they do, and there are very few that act that way.

  19. arizonaadam says:

    Complaning about RyanAir is like complaining about Best Buy. Don’t do business with either and your overall, lifetime-customer-satisfaction happiness score will improve from day one. Ryanair actually brags about pissing people off.