THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — For about 200 passengers, the flight from London to Thessaloniki in northern Greece took almost 24 hours.
Foggy conditions in Thessaloniki airport led Ryanair to divert the flight from London Stansted Airport to the city of Timisoara in western Romania, late on Friday.
Many passengers, already grumbling that the diversion was not made to an airport closer to their destination were outraged when the company offered buses to take them the 770-kilometre distance in freezing weather.
Ryanair has scheduled flights to Timisoara, as well as Athens, Greece, and some passengers felt that the decision to divert to the Romanian city was made on the basis of minimising costs.
“They could have landed us at a Greek airport,” flight passenger Sakis Papadopoulos, 36, told The Associated Press.
“Our flight was already delayed and then, around 10.30pm (Friday), they informed us we would be landing at Timisoara instead of Thessaloniki,” Papadopoulos said.
A total of 89 refused to take up the offer of buses, despite what they said was pressure from airport authorities, who kept them in the baggage area overnight.
Papadopoulos, who had travelled to London for the holidays, said that the passengers were finally offered a hotel stay at 8am on Saturday but they refused, saying they would stay put until a plane arrived to take them to Greece.
“Some of us contacted Greek media,” Papadopoulos said.
Informed of the passengers’ plight, the Greek government arranged with Greek carrier Aegean Airlines to send a plane to Timisoara. Transport Minister Christos Spirtzis weighed in against what he said were “low cost, low social responsibility” airlines.
The 89 passengers arrived in Thessaloniki around 5pm on Saturday. The flight normally would have taken around 3.5 hours.
Ryanair issued an apology for the diversion, saying that it was “beyond our control”.