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Holding passengers in boarding stairwell area after check-in

essex england
Level Contributor
276 posts
83 reviews
Holding passengers in boarding stairwell area after check-in

Recently at Stansted London I (and many others) were kept 'herded' in the stifling claustrophobic walkway after going through the check-in desk. The exit is barred until a member of Ryanair staff opens it to allow passengers to queue - yet again - on the tarmac. Normally the waiting time is fairly minimal and five minutes or so. We were kept in this 'black hole of Calcutta' situation for about 25 minutes and when a couple of old people started to panic and feel ill I pushed my way back through the queue to check-in and fairly forcefully (but not swearing) demanded that the exit door at ground level be opened to allow some fresh air in and stop a potential 'panic situation' It really was extremely unpleasant and for those who suffer from mild claustrophobia or over-heated enclosed spaces terrifying. The Ryanair check-in girl said it wasn't Ryanair's responsibility and I spoke to another 'staff' member who treated me with utter contempt, told me off for raising my voice and causally said this always happens. He couldn't have been less pro-active or concerned. Finally, the exit door was opened after 25 minutes or so and for those in the stair-well with tempers frayed and all sweating profusely we tumbled out into the fresh air. I received a template apology for 'any inconvenience caused' from Ryanair and have still heard nothing from Stansted Airport after making an official complaint. My point is that surely this breaks Health and Safety rules somehow! To allow people to naively pass check-in and then make them queue along the bridge and down the stairwell in sweltering heat and humidity with no exit seems to me the height of irresponsibility How can this situation be allowed to continue?? Any comments would be appreciated from people who have had a similar experience and if indeed there are any rules and regulations in the UK that deem this practice unsafe and/or unacceptable

125 replies to this topic
W Yorkshire
Level Contributor
5,588 posts
182 reviews
1. Re: Holding passengers in boarding stairwell area after check-in

Your referring to holding people on the air bridge/footwell after the gate, not after check in.

Yes, it's fairly common practice, though not usually for that length of time.

Does it break any HSE rules ?, I seriously doubt it. Even 30 mins in a tunnel is not really considered a hardship, clearly there are fire exits at both ends so any emergency can be dealt with safely.

I've found this delay to be more pronounced on the LCC; probably due to them wanting everybody accounted for and ready to board to speed up the turnaround.

It does also happen on the full service carriers, though I've never found the delays that excessive.

I don't think you'll find either Ryanair or Stansted especially interested in your complaint.

London
Destination Expert
for London, Devon
Level Contributor
24,279 posts
52 reviews
2. Re: Holding passengers in boarding stairwell area after check-in

I doubt it too. There's a big difference between unpleasant/uncomfortable and dangerous.

And people are perfectly capable of controlling their own tempers.

Canada
Level Contributor
5,123 posts
21 reviews
3. Re: Holding passengers in boarding stairwell area after check-in

And female employees are called women, not girls.

Lancashire, United...
Destination Expert
for Playa Blanca
Level Contributor
41,489 posts
62 reviews
4. Re: Holding passengers in boarding stairwell area after check-in

I've had it everytime (bar one) that we've flown with Ryanair, including from abroad when it really is hot. Not for quite so long though. They want everyone ready to board as soon as the aircraft is ready. The door on to the tarmac can't be opened until they're ready to board, and ground staff will decide when that is. That would be a health and safety issue if people were free to just walk out.

Travelling The World
Destination Expert
for Alghero, Melton Mowbray, Elora
Level Contributor
16,718 posts
72 reviews
5. Re: Holding passengers in boarding stairwell area after check-in

What will happen at the gates FR usually uses is that people will have their boarding pass checked at the podium after which there is a set of stairs that leads down to a "segregation door" which keeps arriving and departing passengers separate.. This checking usually starts as the aircraft arrives, and so people are held on the stairs behind a segregation door while the incoming passengers deplane. The segregation door is then opened and passengers head down to the tarmac. Often the door to the tarmac is also closed if the aircraft isn't quite ready for boarding.

All this to say that this is standard procedure at Stansted and it's done to ensure that the plane can be boarded as quickly as possible when it's ready. But I do agree that 25 minutes is excessive. I think it is Ryanair's fault to the extent that it's there policy to "send passengers down the chute" before the aircraft is ready for boarding. With other airlines you generally remain in the holding area and boarding only commences when the aircraft is ready.

Edited: 12:37 pm, October 10, 2017
Bangkok, Thailand
Destination Expert
for Bangkok, Air Travel, Thailand
Level Contributor
15,830 posts
71 reviews
6. Re: Holding passengers in boarding stairwell area after check-in

Hi,

"Any comments would be appreciated from people who have had a similar experience and if indeed there are any rules and regulations in the UK that deem this practice unsafe and/or unacceptable"

==> I suspect not... but.. I think you'd need to do some leg-work on your end to see if there are in fact any legal prohibitions. Commonly, so long as the venues maximum stated capacity isn't exceeded (the maximum number of persons that the PLB is rated to hold) and there the legal minimum exits are accessible (and in working order) that you probably don't have/didn't have any kind of "unsafe" condition..

Most of the PLB's that I've seen and used when I worked a ground-based position, were rated for capacities around 70 people-- and I don't think we ever came close to getting 70 people in the PLB at one time... but each PLB can be rated differently.. (the rating is usually mounted on a metal plaque riveted to the PLB at one end) For the emergency exits, the only "rules" that I was aware of was that we coudn't have locked [by key or other form]/blocked the exit (back into the gate area) -- and while the doors from the PLB back to the gate area were closed (and alarmed) there was no physical lock or physical block that prevented them from being opened in case of emergency.

Now, none of this is to say it was fun or even customer-friendly -- but that is a much different matter than the claim that it is/was unsafe -- which usually is a measure that's objectively defined and imposed externally by law or statues.

Travel Safe,

UK
Level Contributor
1,877 posts
65 reviews
7. Re: Holding passengers in boarding stairwell area after check-in

I flew from Stansted the other day and noticed warning signs saying people may be held in the stairwells, never noticed it before, I assume this is no coincidence?

Edinburgh
Level Contributor
11,523 posts
17 reviews
8. Re: Holding passengers in boarding stairwell area after check-in

Yes it has happened to me many times when flying from STN and from other airports. Time held varies but it isn't unsafe justbgiresome. Leaving the door open to the tarmac, OTH would be very dangerous.

We want cheap fares from LCCs and one of the ways they achieve this is fast turnaround times.

For elderly or other passengers unable to stand for any length of time, they book special assistance Nd get taken to the aircraft differently and are not held waiting with everyone else.

I think you've blown this out of all proportion and running back through the gate and making a fuss clearly didn't help your case. They can't just let people start wandering across the tarmac, but equally they can't let them back past the gate and into the departure lounge.

Buckinghamshire...
Level Contributor
3,497 posts
164 reviews
9. Re: Holding passengers in boarding stairwell area after check-in

We've had to wait with Ryanair in similar circumstances... However it was in the Canaries. We had speedy boarding but somehow missed getting to the front of the queue. We ended up right at the back. Glad we did. They were checking boarding passes and sending people through but they were then queuing in the stairwell/ramp going down to the plane. We waited about 10 mins before the queue started to move. Dunno how long those waited at the front were there. At first I was annoyed I missed my speedy boarding... but then feeling how hot it was in the stairwell/ramp area... I'm glad I was almost last on.

essex england
Level Contributor
276 posts
83 reviews
10. Re: Holding passengers in boarding stairwell area after check-in

but if two dear little old ladies are beginning to faint and start panicking about fresh air, what are you to do? I'm certainly not blowing it up out of all proportion. I felt bad enough with the heat and claustrophobic enclosure of the bottom of the stairwell but for unseasoned travellers it must have been an awful experience. Also every one on the stairs were pathetically fanning themselves and moaning and complaining about the heat. My wife told me that while I was 'upstairs' trying to get someone to open the bottom door passengers at the front near the exit door starts banging on it and tried to open it. I think in retrospect they were too 'frightened' to press the emergency bar and set off an alarm in fear of 'causing a disturbance'. If this was a shop, I think that what happened to everyone there that day would have taken Ryanair/Stansted Airport to court but it is amazing what people put up with because they 'don't want to cause a fuss'. I did, with much approval by the passengers who were (luckily) still in the check-in area upstairs. The point is - why didn't anyone either Ryanair or Stansted Airport staff want to do anything to help or even acknowledge what was obviously a serious situation? I wasn't making a fuss - I just wanted to get some fresh air to those who were very upset by the situation. Someone could have opened the door and waited with us until it was possible to board the plane. This eventually happened but about 20 minutes too late!

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