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Listen Up, Pat-Down Protesters! These Furious Fliers Know How to Fight Back

If you're planning to join the Pat-Down Opt Out on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, here's a lesson in civil (or not so civil) disobedience from the latest victims of Ryanair's customer appreciation program. About 100 travelers, most of them heading home to France, were infuriated this week when their flight from Morocco was diverted to Belgium. When the plane landed, they refused to get off, staged a sit-in, and showed some unmanaged anger to airport officials.

The reason: fog.

The diversion: reasonable.

But the flight had already been three hours late in leaving Fez and when it ran into weather, according to passengers, the crew didn't even inform them that they were taking an unexpected detour.

And we're just getting started. When the plane landed in Belgium, some 200 miles from its original destination, a corps of disgruntled fliers refused to disembark. So the flight crew disembarked by themselves -- but only after they turned off the lights and water and locked the toilets. And why not? They were off duty once the plane touched the ground.

Airport Officials vs Passengers: Who Blinks?
There were no Ryanair staffers at the airport, so it was then up to the airport officials, who tried to lure the passengers into a transit lounge, promising them food and drink. The protesters held tough for about 4 hours, then decided to cave -- but not without allegedly cursing, assaulting and spitting at the airport personnel as they decamped to the lounge. The police were called.

It's not the first time Ryanair has abandoned passengers. This is also the same airline that last year announced it was considering a charge of one British pound -- roughly $1.60 at current exchange rates to use the lavatories. This year, they got even more creative: executives said they were "considering" installing and selling SRO -- standing room only seats.

Introducing: The Peter Greenberg Airline Hall of Shame
Airlines like Ryanair, easyJet and in the United States, Spirit -- which now charges passenger up to $45 for a carry-on bag -- are quickly entering my airline hall of shame for poor customer service. Why the honor? A quick example from easyJet: They earn their accolade for their especially draconian overweight fees for bags. On one flight, from London's Luton airport to Charles de Gaulle in Paris, for which I paid $48 in airfare, the airline charged me $286 for two bags. Each was under 44 pounds, but the airline still claimed they were overweight. Let's do the math: For the same money, I could have given six other people free tickets to fly and have them carry my stuff!

Guarantee: Your Airline Will Continue to Innovate
The bottom line, of course, is that airlines will do almost anything to cut costs and raise revenue. By the end of 2010 they will have generated nearly $13 billion in additional money. Fees for checked baggage onboard food, pillows, blankets. What's next? How about -- a mandatory $80 rental of a hazmat suit if I insist on TOUCHING the blanket? I'd ask you to send me your Airline Outrage Predictions, but why give them any ideas?

But here's one suggestion -- gratis -- for Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary, or his counterparts. How about a new marketing slogan: Fly Us! We're not happy until YOU'RE not happy.
As for Ryanair, the company issued a statement thanking the group of passengers who did disembark obediently as soon as the plane landed. The police involvement, they said, is standard. The protesters were taken home to France -- for free! -- by bus. Makes sense. Isn't a bus what Ryanair has become anyway?