–Corporations are treading on human rights: CarrZee service review
–As of Nov. 24, still waiting for response to most of my questions
Opinion and reporting by Mathew Carr (CarrZee)
Nov. 21, 2023 — Both the airport representative used by Ryanair and customs officials threatened to disallow me onto a flight from the Netherlands to the UK on Sunday evening, after I photographed the agent with her permission.
The agent apparently requested that the border force (customs officials) require me to delete the photo from my phone, which I contend was a breach of my human rights as an accredited journalist.
My experience came three days before the Netherlands decides in a vote on the make up of its next government, which is currently led by right-leaning parties.
A dispute erupted at the airport after the Viggo agent said I’d need to pay a fine of almost three times the price of the fares for apparently being four minutes late with online check in. (Viggo helps operate the airport and it is not clear if there is a direct commercial relationship between Viggo and Ryanair.)
I’m not contesting I was pushing my luck with the check-in time, but the reaction of the Viggo representative was Dutch — ie very direct — and then it spilled over into rudeness.
I’ve already asked Ryanair to comment and will ask Viggo, too.
Here’s what happened and my questions:
My family and I were required to pay a 220 euro penalty (for flights costing £78 for 4 people) for failing to check in 2 hours ahead of our 10pm flight to Stansted. (I’m not complaining about the initial price, plus I purchased carbon credits separately.) I asked Ryanair how is that level of penalty proportionate to my apparent bad behavior?
I contend that I tried in the app a couple of minutes before 8pm and functionality had closed in the app for check in — and probably before 8pm.
The Viggo/Ryanair representative (employee no. **** [redacted yet provided]) who processed payment said she “didn’t give a shit” in front of my wife and two teenage children when I requested information on how the penalty system worked and about how the revenue sharing between the two companies worked. To be fair, she never said what exactly she didn’t give a shit about. There were about four other Viggo employees sitting and standing around close by and witnessing this — weirdly.
My wife objected and said it wasn’t called for. I wasn’t rude though I was peeved. There was further discussion.
Being an Aussie, I know about straight talking, but the agent’s behavior turned weird, in the extreme, I contend. I took a photo of her, which she gave me permission to do because I was considering making a complaint. I thanked her for letting me do so, yet despite her permission she quickly turned away and picked up a non-ringing phone to partially cover her face.
I’ve asked Ryanair is there a performance element of the Viggo contract, assuming there is a deal directly between Viggo and Ryanair.
What happened next was when it got really weird
The agent then said “let’s see if you get on the flight,” which we took as an indirect threat.
Then the agent (or someone) apparently requested the assistance of the Dutch state (Customs) to require us to delete the photo from my phone, because we were challenged when we entered the border-force area at about 9pm.
The female customs officer asked to see the photo and apparently wanted us to delete it. I asked which law allows you to do this (make that request)? She didn’t know and conceded she should have checked earlier, so she could answer that question.
If you are not allowed to use camera phones at airports, for instance, are all video calls against the rules? is one question that pops into my mind when considering what I contend is an outdated rule (to disallow photography). Is it corporate overreach?
I regarded the request to delete the photo taken in a public space (or semi public) as a breach of the Dutch constitution, which allows for freedom of expression.
A queue was forming behind us
So I was initially reluctant to delete the photo, and I repeatedly asked what law underpinned the request.
The male customs official, the second of two officials on duty that night, said something like: “Do you want to get on the flight”? which we took as a second indirect threat.
After my young son asked me to, I deleted the photo. He seemed a little stressed.
The flight was then delayed, so — after all that — indeed I had checked in more than two hours ahead of the flight departure.
Then, I contend, another human rights breach occurred:
Ryanair/Viggo sent customers into the outside cold to wait for about 15 minutes for the apparently late-arriving Ryanair flight to disembark. There seemed no reason to do this, as it was warm inside and there was time. Some customers started coughing and two complained of the cold to me. We waited for a long time before the jet started moving.
I contend the Viggo/Ryanair agent/s breached our human rights as passengers (including small children) on top of my human rights as a journalist (free expression).
Safe mobility is a human right, as it relates to states’ and companies’ obligation or guidance to promote and protect the right to life, right to health, right to development and other rights. I asked Ryanair do you agree you are in breach? Why/why not?
While I concede this is no major incident, states and corporations — in this case a state probably at the behest of corporation/s — are probably breaching human rights and overreaching what they are allowed to do under the law and/or under UN business human rights guidance.
People (mums dads kids) are held to account, as I was for not complying with the letter of Ryanair’s vague check-in policy, which I contend is an attempt to trick customers into paying more — for allocated seats. It’s arguably antitrust because it requires purchase of a second service that you may not really want and it’s fine print (misleading at point of sale), as well as out of proportion to cost of services.
It targets the poorest in society, some of whom use discount-airline Ryanair’s services. These customers are less likely to stick up for themselves and so are more vulnerable. I’m not putting myself in that category, but less wealthy people’s time is just as valuable as the wealthy. Why should someone have to spend twice as much time to check in just because they don’t mind random seats?
BTW, on the outgoing flight Ryanair allocated my family all over the plane, even though there were three seats directly next to me. Was this retaliation for not buying the seats? Maybe my teenagers aren’t old enough for an exit row. I’ve asked Ryanair if it engages in retaliation.
Corporations, it seems, fight hard not to be held accountable — as in the case of my return flight when they invoked the state to get me to delete the photo taken to improve corporate accountability.
Back in London, the service on the coach trip home from the airport operated by National Express and one driver was exceptionally professional and smooth.
Importance of Nov. 22 for Dutch voters
From Bing chat:
Yes, there is a sense of a new era beginning in Dutch politics.
The snap parliamentary election on November 22, 2023, is being fought on a cluster of domestic crises, including the high cost of living, a shortage of housing, healthcare, and climate change.
After 13 years as prime minister, Mark Rutte is bowing out, and the election caused by the collapse of his government is promising a shake-up in politics 1. A new centrist party led by Pieter Omtzigt is ahead in the polls, but Dilan Yesilgöz is tipped to be the next prime minister and could become the first female Dutch PM 2. The significant proportion of floating voters deciding which 26 parties should fill the 150 seats in the Dutch parliament makes this election highly unpredictable 2. The last coalition took nine months to form and lasted less than two years 2.
AirHelp —scheduled times in blue
Agressie ? Random shot from Viggo’s Facebook
Customer pens used by Viggo staffers