Adam Berry/Getty Images
Andrea Romano
October 19, 2018

European budget airline Ryanair has been getting some severe criticism after a photo circulated online of one flight crew that allegedly was “forced” to sleep on the floor in Spain.

According to Travel Pulse, a flight going to Porto, Portugal had to be diverted to Malaga, Spain due to Tropical Storm Leslie on Saturday night. A photo posted on Sunday to the Facebook group, Ryanair MUST Change, and then later on Twitter, shows at least six crew members sleeping on the floor due to the minimal availability of places to rest.

This is Porto crew last night stranded on the floor of Málaga crew room. They were diverted due to the storm and the company left them there. #RyanairMUSTChange

Posted by Ryanair MUST Change on Sunday, October 14, 2018

The negative social media response took off quickly over the weekend. Both Facebook and Twitter users were sharing the photo and criticizing the airline.

According to another Facebook post on the same page, the Sindicato Nacional do Pessoal de Voo da Aviação Cívil (SNPVAC) clarified in a press release that four Ryanair flights destined for Porto ended up in Malaga, resulting in 24 crew members (8 pilots and 16 cabin crew) being “placed in a room, without the minimum rest facilities, where the crew that is based on that airport perform their briefings and where Ryanair has their Malaga offices.”

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According to the SNPVAC, the crew was there from 1:30 a.m. to 6 a.m. local time “without access to food, drinks and even a place to sit down, as there were only 8 seats available for the 24 crew.” It was around 6 a.m. the crew were moved to an airport lounge, but were still not given access to food or drink.

Around 1:35 p.m. local time, Ryanair performed a non-commercial flight to Porto with only the 24 crew members on board.

SNPVAC added in the post, “It is regrettable and inconceivable that, in the 21st century, we observe this kind of events where we can verify that Ryanair operates without any respect for their employees and their customers, who were also left stranded in the airport terminal, in the highly regulated aviation sector.”

Ryanair's Chief Operations Officer, Peter Bellew, said the crew was moved to a VIP lounge since “all hotels were completely booked out in Malaga.” Later, Ryanair allegedly called the photo “staged,” according to Travel Pulse.

The airline posted a surveillance video of crew members taking the photo as well, in order to discredit them.

However, regardless of whether the photo was “staged,” U.K. website, Aviation Analyst, posits that Bellew may have misspoke when he said that all hotels were booked in Malaga, saying that “There are at least 400 hotels in and around the main city of Malaga, City, with a further 1,500 properties within 20 kilometres of the airport. Furthermore, it’s low-season in Southern Spain, and most hotel occupancy rates are at 50% (half-empty) as is normal for this time of year.”

Response on social media to the surveillance video did not turn out entirely on the side of Ryanair.

The SNPVAC says it will be making a formal complaint to all “relevant civil aviation authorities” in order to prevent incidents like this in the future.

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