I’m an early-to-the-airport traveller. I’d much prefer to be waiting two hours for a flight than to have to run down the corridors to make it to the gate before it closed. I’m also a first-on-the-plane type if I have overhead baggage. I queue. I usually start the queue. I get very uncomfortable if my bag is not directly above me. I have never, ever, had to get something from my bag. But if it’s not overhead, I get nervous. It’s about knowing it’s there. Above me. Within reach. Should I need it.
I usually fly Ryanair these days – the Budapest-Dublin route operated by Buzz, a Ryanair subsidiary. You’re probably not remotely interested but I find these buyouts and buyups fascinating.
Buzz is a Polish airline headquartered in Warsaw. Formerly called Ryanair Sun, it is a subsidiary of the Irish airline company, Ryanair Holdings, and a sister airline to Ryanair, Ryanair UK, Malta Air and Lauda Europe. Formed in 2017 and initially positioned as a charter airline without any scheduled services, Buzz operates scheduled flights on behalf of Ryanair, and charter flights in its own right, out of Poland.In March 2019, Ryanair announced that Ryanair Sun would be rebranded as Buzz in autumn 2019. Buzz commenced operations in January 2020.
Anyway, back to my point. I usually pay for the two-bag carry-on priority boarding option. The priority part is laughable; it’s the two bags that I go for. I use the same two bags all the time because I know they fit in the size boxes. I’d hate to be at the mercy of the mood of the agents at the boarding gate.
This last time, though, I didn’t have a 10kg carry-on, just my small bag. And I didn’t have priority. As my bag was to go underneath the seat in front of me, I had no separation anxiety, so I took my time boarding.
And I noticed something that pissed me off.
The Budapest-Dublin route has its fair share of Roma travellers. Whole families travel en masse back and forth. They usually don’t have priority and therefore haven’t paid to bring a 10kg bag on board, so they’re easy targets. Hauled out of the queue, they have to go through the motions of trying to squeeze a big bag into a small box. And then pay the €46 charge for their sin of omission.
Fair enough. It’s on the site. Ryanair is clear about what you get for what you pay. I’ve no issue with that.
What I didn’t like though was that non-Roma passengers got through, without penalty. One with not two bags but three, only one of which would have fit under the seat in front of her. But she was blond-haired and blue-eyed. Another couple had two big bags, neither of which would have fit in the size box. I counted three more that weren’t stopped and all were over the allowance. Space challenged that I am, even I could see that their bags wouldn’t have passed the box test.
But five Roma were pulled from the line. And because Ryanair is now a cashless airline, they had to pay their fine by card. Three did. And were let through. One couple didn’t have a card.
Flight booked and paid for. They’re at the gate on time, ready to board. But their bag is slightly too big – just slightly too big. Definitely no bigger than what I’d seen pass through the gate pulled by white hands or strapped to white shoulders. And they had no card. It was a standoff.
The gate agent was adamant – no cash. The man was equally adamant – no card. He went up and down the queue asking someone, anyone, to pay by card and he’d give them the cash. His English was about as good as my Hungarian but it was obvious what he wanted.
It reminded me of my traffic situation – all eyes straight ahead, no one making eye contact, no one giving him any quarter. I wondered how helpful people might have been had he looked more like them.
I stepped out of the queue and offered my card. He gave me €50. I gave him his €4 change. He was very grateful. I was strangely grateful that he had given me the opportunity to do something nice for someone. The gate agent seemed put out. I wondered what would have happened had I not volunteered my card? Would they have been allowed board?
It’s ingrained, isn’t it? This discrimination. This focus on those who are different. It’s sad. Disappointing. Disheartening.
I met the chap on the bus to the plane. He was explaining what had happened to his mates. He thanked me again. No problem, I said.
I met him when we disembarked and were waiting for our checked bags. He thanked me again. Happy to be able to help, I said
I met him outside when we were both waiting for our lifts. He thanked me yet again. I just smiled. Sadly.
What a world we live in eh? What a world.