The Airline Says One Thing. The Flight Crews Pictured Sleeping On the Floor Say Another. This Is What They All Told Me

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

An airline’s crew were lying on the floor, apparently trying to sleep in a brightly-lit room.

It looked a little too perfectly damning, to be honest. 

These were, though, 24 members of four Ryanair crews stranded by weather in Málaga, Spain and not provided with a hotel by the airline.

So it took to Twitter and Facebook and posted video of the crew staging the image.

I asked Ryanair whether this wasn’t a slightly unseemly move, one that may even have privacy implications.

An airline spokeswoman told me: 

The publication of this video reveals the facts and exposes the SNPVAC union fake news/false claims.This video proves that the original picture was staged and no crew ‘slept on the floor.’ All Ryanair offices and crew rooms are equipped for security reasons with CCTV cameras and notifications of same as required by GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation]. 

Why, though, didn’t the airline offer the crew a hotel for the night? Ryanair’s spokeswoman insisted: 

Due to storms in Porto (13 Oct) a number of flights diverted to Malaga and as this was a Spanish national holiday, hotels were fully booked.  The crew spent a short period of time in the crew room before being moved to a VIP lounge, and returned to Porto the next day (none of the crew operated flights).

Oddly, local resident Alex Macheras noted that Booking.com showed more than 1,800 hotel rooms available in Malaga that night.

Ryanair’s Chief Operating Officer Peter Bellew insisted that the airline had called 42 hotels.

There was nothing for it but to dutifully ask Bruno Fialho, vice-president of the SNPVAC union, to offer me his two minutes on Ryanair’s claims.

Please Fasten Your Seat Belts. 

Fialho’s version was a little different.

He told me that the 24 crew members were placed in the Ryanair crew room “so that they were kept isolated from the hundreds of passengers that were in the terminal.”

It was 1.15 a.m. Then, Fialho told me: 

For hours, the Crew attempted to contact Ryanair OPS and LESMA (local RYR Ground handling agent) to obtain information about the hotel accommodation and both replied that there weren’t any hotels available. The Crew also contacted directly some hotels in the Málaga area and there were rooms available.

This is already not looking good. Fialho says that the crew were sent to an airport lounge at around 3.45 a.m. There were chairs, sofas and toilets available, but no food or drinks.

Next, Fialho says, the crew were told they’d be flown to Portugal on a 10 a.m. flight, but still no food or drinks were offered. In addition, Fialho says, the crew was guarded by security personnel, preventing them from leaving.

Then, mordant comedy. Fialho told me: 

After the security guard made several phone calls, the Crew was allowed into the airport terminal to have some breakfast. Finally, at 9 a.m. the LESMA duty manager informs that he managed to get a hotel for everyone. However, the Crew was already informed of the flight at 10:00 a.m. (just 1 hour later) which the duty manager wasn’t aware.

No, it wasn’t over. Fialho again:

At 09.55 a.m. the Crew is sent on a bus to the aircraft with the information that 2 pilots were already there to take the aircraft ferry to Porto. When they got there, the aircraft was closed and the crew were left on the ramp. The Pilots decide to open the aircraft to wait inside as the weather conditions were adverse.

So the took off shortly afterwards, right? Well, no, says Fialho.

At 10.40 a.m. the Crew is informed of a 2 hour slot restriction and that they have to wait for another 10 pilots from Málaga Airport and other bases to take the same flight to Porto in order to operate the afternoon flights. The operating captain didn’t have permission to leave Málaga before those 10 pilots arrived.

Please tell me you’re still with me, as there’s more. A lot more. Next, Fialho says:

At 11.20 a.m., the Crew asks the operating Captain to open the aircraft bars and get something to eat, a request that was denied by Operations. The Crew decided to ignore the instruction and opened the bar anyway, as they were feeling very hungry.

Fialho says that the flight finally landed in Porto at 1.42 p.m. Worse, he says, the Crew Controller was convinced that the crews had been given hotels and were properly rested, so they were being scheduled for new flights.

Yes, I hear you cry, but what about the staged photo? According to Fialho: 

The photo was a gesture of protest, that immediately became viral. Laying on the floor was the only option to rest — their ‘suitable accommodation.’ And precisely due to the unusual, deplorable and despicable treatment given to the Crew, Ryanair became the object of a social media frenzy.

Fialho added another kink to the story of the photo: 

Ryanair rushes to call it ‘staged,’ but not before the Company’s Chief Operating Officer apologized to the crew via Twitter.

Fialho believes this is merely another example of Ryanair’s cold-blooded attitude to employee relations. But what about the privacy issue with the video? He told me: 

Regarding the evident breach of the Global Data Protection Regulations we will discuss this in the appropriate institutions. Ryanair did us all a favor by providing evidence that in fact there were no minimum conditions for their employees to spend the night with dignity.

The People’s Verdict.

If you look on Twitter and Facebook, sympathy largely rests with the cabin crews. 

Above all, however, a single impression remains — that relations between Ryanair and its employees are parlous at best. 

How you treat your employees says so much about how your company is run. And once employer/employee unpleasantness reaches the public sphere, please imagine what your customers will think.

Then again, I fear that many will merely mutter: “Yup, that’s Ryanair for you.”

Uber Now Wants to Take Over Yet Another Massive Industry (And Nobody Even Noticed)

For a while there, you could probably get a meeting with a lot of potential investors by saying you had a plan to create “the Uber of X.”

We’re building the Uber of private jets. The Uber of trucking. The Uber of real estate.

In Chicago and Los Angeles, the company we once thought of as being in the transportation industry is testing a pilot program where it provides waiters, security guards, and other 1099 independent contractors–all on demand, to businesses.

With about 2 million drivers worldwide, Uber would be arguably be the world’s fourth-largest employer if its workers were true employees as opposed to independent contractors.

For context, the largest employer is the U.S. military; tied at No. 2 are the Chinese army and Walmart, each with about 3.2 million people on payroll.

So how much bigger can Uber get? Tough to say for sure, but it’s a safe bet it’s all about diversifying ahead of the company’s expected IPO next year.

At least Uber wait staff will be able to travel to their Uber events in an Uber car.

Here’s what else I’m reading today:

A giant data mining company might go public

Palantir Technologies Inc., is reportedly eyeing an initial public offering for the second half of 2019, with a possible $41 billion valuation. Cofounded by Peter Thiel in 2004, the data mining company is secretive and influential. Its analytics were credited with helping the government track down Osama bin Laden, and it also has massive contracts with intelligence, defense, and police agencies around the world. (Rob Copeland, The Wall Street Journal)

Here’s how online brands can go brick-and-mortar

It’s been a sad but not unexpected week for retail, with the news that the iconic brand Sears is in bankruptcy. The silver lining for commercial landlords (like malls) is that smaller stores can bring in six times the revenue of big, legacy anchor stores. Now several new startups are trying to find ways to get smaller, online brands into newly free physical spaces. (Michelle Cheng, Inc.com)

In this entire scenario, you don’t actually own anything

Rent the Runway this week announced a new partnership with WeWork. For now, it’s just a matter of installing drop-off boxes at 15 WeWork pilot locations. This means that women customers can rent clothes, likely have them delivered a rented city apartment, and then drop them off at a workspace that they (or their company) also rents. (Marc Bain, Quartz)

Taking on the ‘Pink Tax’

The shaving brand Harry’s launched a line of women’s products recently under the name Flamingo, with a radical pitch: It says it will charge men and women the same amount for similar products. Of course that’s only radical because of the fact that pricing for women’s products is often higher than for men’s, even when the products themselves are exactly the same. This “pink tax” leads women to wind up spending about $100,000 more over a lifetime than men do for similar products. (Sonia Thompson, Inc.com)

Panasonic’s dystopian new office product

They must have done some market research, but it’s hard to imagine what Panasonic thinks of the world with a new product called Wear Space, which is intended to help people stay focused at work, but really just looks like horse blinders made for humans. What’s more, this multibillion dollar company with 250,000 employees is running a crowdfunding campaign to bring the product to life. But they do seem serious. (James Vincent, Circuit Breaker