Air travel and Covid: three problems from readers

Issues include a passenger locator form headache, rowdy passengers and no mask wearing

One reader reported  a rowdy group on board a Ryanair flight who acted like they were at a football match. Photograph: iStock

One reader reported a rowdy group on board a Ryanair flight who acted like they were at a football match. Photograph: iStock

 

And now to air. Daniel Nagle was booked on an Air France flight from Paris to Dublin last week. At the boarding gate he asked for a paper version of the passenger locator form.

“The Air France staff at the gate said they had none and said you have to register online. I had done it before so started and tried about six to seven times and the Irish Government site hosting the server for the forms did not ‘respond’ several times and I had to start all over again,” he says.

“It all took time and as it got closer and closer to the flight’s take-off time, I asked the Air France staff could I board and complete the form in Ireland. The guy I asked said, ‘The Irish government does not want anybody to board unless they have completed the passenger locator form. It is not us.’”

He says Air France staff were trying to help people complete the form. “They even loaned an iPad to one passenger to see if he could log on with it. There were at least two people whose native language was not English and they were asking ‘what does this mean?’ as they tried to complete it. At the last minute or so – I managed to complete the form and was allowed to board. Another gentleman completed his and was also allowed to board.”

Others were, he says, not so lucky and could not board as a result of issues with the server in Ireland. “When I was seated onboard the plane, it was announced there would be a slight delay as luggage was being removed for passengers who were not boarding. It kind of went over my head, I was just glad to be on board.”

Then, when Daniel arrived in Dublin Airport, he noticed stacks of paper passenger locator forms. “The lady at immigration told me when I asked – ‘they were for people who could not complete the form online – mostly Americans – what the? What about our own?”

And as if all of that wasn’t stressful enough, he waited at the luggage carousel for his bags but there was no sign of it. “I switched on my phone, I had got one from Air France – my luggage had obviously been taken off – as a passenger who was not ‘boarding’! Their text message simply said it was still in Paris. The guy at the airport helped me complete a form and my luggage should arrive on the next Air France flight into Dublin, which is on Wednesday, I think?”

He concludes by saying that what really annoyed him was leaving people behind, over a form they could have completed in Dublin. “After all we went through with the lockdown, people being ill and dying. Where is our humanity? The stupidity of it all, people matter.”

We contacted the Department of Health which clarified the position. In a statement it said “All passengers arriving into the State are required to complete a COvid-19 Passenger Locator Form”. It added that regulations “place obligations on travel organisers to take reasonable steps to inform international passengers of his or her obligations around the PLF. It currently does not require travel organisers to ensure international passenger have completed a PLF before travelling into Ireland. Currently, both the online and paper forms can be completed upon arrival into Ireland and before border checks.”

Masks

Next up there is a disturbing mail from a reader called Philip Begley. He travelled with Ryanair to Faro for a weekend in the middle of this month. “On the outward flight, we had the joy of five/six hoodlums at the back of the plane with their own ghetto blaster, blasting out music with obscene lyrics,” he writes.

“These yobbos ran up and down the aisle without masks, roaring and shouting, whistling and singing like at a football match!”

He says the staff did not intervene and he expresses surprise that on touchdown “the police did not meet the plane and arrest this bunch of trouble-makers. Besides the upset, these hooligans represented a danger to all passengers on this flight”.

He notes that the rule is that all passengers have to wear face masks for the duration of the flight. For the avoidance of all doubt he quotes the Ryanair website, which says, “Face masks/coverings are mandatory in the airport and on board your flight.”

His upset did not end there. “On the return flight, we had a group of people from Northern Ireland in the two rows in front of us who once boarded, took off their masks. I brought this to the attention of the flight crew on two separate occasions. They asked the people to put their masks back on and while they did momentarily, as soon as the flight attendant turned away, the masks came back off again. The flight crew allowed members of the group who were seated elsewhere on the plane to join their friends in row 14 and 15.”

Our reader says he explained to the crew member “that we in row 16 were uncomfortable with this but they did nothing further to change the situation. We had to endure 2 hours 30 mins of this Northern group, drinking, talking and laughing, all without masks right in front of us. The flight attendants passed by several times without asking them to put their masks back on. Again, this places passengers in a very dangerous situation. We know that the Delta variant will probably come from Northern Ireland, not helped by this breach by Ryanair, ignoring their own rules in relation to mandatory mask wearing.”

While we do have sympathy for the Ryanair staff – no one should have to deal with people displaying such a blatant disregard for public health rules as part of their working day – we do wonder if more action should be taken to stop this kind of thing happening.

We contacted Ryanair and while it was able to quickly identify the flight our reader was on, its story differed in many key respects. A statement said: “We have robust health measures in place – in line with EASA & ECDC recommendations – to protect both our customers and our people. The use of face masks is mandatory throughout the whole duration of the journey. These passengers only removed their masks while eating or drinking, which is permitted for a short period of time in line with Ryanair’s health guidelines. Cabin crew requested several times that they lowered their tone and put their masks back on after eating/drinking, which they did. At no time did these passengers become disruptive”.

Refund

And finally we have a story about Aer Lingus. “Am I the only person in Ireland waiting on a refund or a voucher from Aer Lingus for a flight they cancelled in March 2020 at the start of Covid?” wonders Fiona Lynch.

“We booked economy flights to fly to Barcelona on March 12th returning home on the 22nd, as we watched the Covid-19 numbers grow in Spain we decided we weren’t going to risk the outward flights. I’m fully aware that this was our decision and we decided the stress of being in Spain while all this was going on wasn’t worth €250. Not long after this date the Catalan government started lockdown.”

She says the issue she has is that Aer Lingus cancelled all flights to and from Barcelona on Saturday, March 21st, 2020 “so surely I’m entitled to the €250 refund or voucher for these flights. Three times I have applied for refund or vouchers and apart from getting a reference number saying they were looking at it and then another reference number saying they were processing a voucher, I haven’t heard anything else.

“And there is still no sign of the voucher and or refund. How do I progress this – are there more people out there like me? I hope to go to a wedding in the USA this year and would like that €250 voucher towards my flights.”

We contacted Aer Lingus who said our reader “is entitled to a voucher for the value of the return flight plus an extra 10%. The voucher for the value of €296.98 has now been processed and will be sent to the email provided in the booking.”

A spokesman said that “unfortunately, some outstanding voucher requests are more complex and require manual intervention, we acknowledge in this case the customer has been waiting too long and we sincerely apologise for the inconvenience.”