A Muslim doctor, grieving because his family had just perished in a fire, was charged extra by Ryanair to change flights and fly home earlier, prompting the company to do some quick spin doctoring to avoid a public media outcry.
The BBC reported Sept. 20 that Dr. Muhammad Taufiq Al Sattar's wife and three children all died in a house fire last Friday in the family’s home in Leicester, England. After Sattar explained that he needed an earlier flight home, and why, the Ryanair employee charged him 188 euros ($255).
Just that morning, police had phoned the 52-year-old doctor in Dublin to officially confirm that none of Sattar’s family members had survived the fire. Sattar said tears were falling down his cheeks as he attempted to explain to the Ryanair staffer why he needed the earlier flight home to the U.K.
Killed in the fire was Sattar’s wife Shehnila Taufiq, 47, and the couple’s children: Jamal, 15, Bilal, 17, and Zainab,19.
“I don't want to make a big deal about it but it did shock me. I really did not expect them to charge me,” Sattar later said. “I thought, given the circumstances, they might just let me transfer flights, as I had already paid for a return fare.”
The amount of money that the neurosurgeon was charged is immaterial. The fact that he was made to pay anything at all, under those extreme circumstances, shows a lack of perspective on the part of Ryanair.
The company evidently agreed, issuing a statement of condolence to Sattar.
“Ryanair offers its sincere condolences to Dr. Sattar and confirmed that under the circumstances it will provide a full refund of any monies paid last Friday.”
Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said an exception should have been made.
“I think you have to make exceptions in cases like that and we made an exception last night when we became aware of it,” O’Leary said. “We want to respond sensitively to these cases.”