Ryanair plane impounded, 149 passengers kicked off due to unpaid bill

Flights get canceled for all kinds of reasons: weather, mechanical issues, crews that have gone past their maximum amount of hours for the week. But it’s not every day you get booted off your flight because the airline was behind on its bills.

That’s what happened Thursday when French civil aviation authorities impounded a Ryanair plane that was about to leave Bourdeaux for London with 149 passengers on board.

According to the BBC, the Directorate General for Civil Aviation ordered the plane grounded until the Irish low-cost carrier paid a $610,000 bill for regional subsidies for flights made between 2008 and 2009.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported that the European Commission later ruled that the subsidies gave the airline an unfair advantage and ordered the money be paid back. But at the time the plane was grounded, it had only paid back half of its $1.1 million bill. Ryanair repaid the balance Friday.

“It is unfortunate that the state had to take such action, which led to the inevitable inconvenience of the 149 passengers on board the immobilized plane,” the DGAC said in a statement to the BBC. “Those passengers were able to eventually reach their destination later that evening on another Ryanair plane, but with a five-hour delay.”

The airline would not comment on the impounded plane to either outlet. USA TODAY has reached out to Ryanair. 

Ryanair has hit a patch of public relations turbulence of late. 

Just last month, the airline was criticized for not throwing a racist passenger off a flight and by its union for leaving a crew high and dry with no shelter, food or drink following a flight cancellation.

Ryanair has also been beset by strikes. Meanwhile, a number of compensation checks from the airline to passengers on canceled flights wound up bouncing because they were sent without signatures.

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