A Ryanair passenger was arrested after the airline called police when he refused to pay for an "inedible" £3.80 chicken sandwich on board.

The man instead asked to exchange the partially-eaten sarnie, which the airline describes as "fresh", for a muffin as he was very hungry (see the Budget Airline Fee-Fighting guide).

When cabin crew refused, he said he was told they would call police when the plane landed, which indeed happened.

The passenger, Norwegian Henrik Ulven, kept the €4.50 (£3.80) sandwich, which is part of the airline's 'premium' range, as evidence to show police (see pic, right, of Henrik and the offending item).

He was led into a room by officers after his flight landed, who he says simply laughed at the incident after he explained what happened, and he was soon allowed to go on his way.

While the incident has caused much amusement, even for the police involved, it highlights you should avoid buying expensive and often unpalatable food on board budget airline flights.


Henrik, 52, speaking to MoneySavingExpert.com, says: "It was unbelievable. I thought it was a joke at first.

"When I took a bite it was like rubber, it was not suitable to eat and did not look like the picture in the promotions.

"I couldn't pay immediately, as my money was in the overhead locker and the trolley was in the way.

"When the stewardess came back, I paid for the beer I ordered but I said it was not fair to pay for the sandwich.

"So I asked if I could have a muffin instead but she refused and said they would call the police if I did not pay."

The incident happened on Tuesday last week on a flight from Berlin, in Germany, to Rygge, which is about 40 miles south of the Norwegian capital Oslo.

Businessman Henrik maintains he was polite and calm throughout, but a Ryanair spokesman says: "The issue was his behaviour, not what he was refusing to pay for.

"The captain requested police assistance on arrival after a passenger became disruptive.

"Ryanair crew only request such assistance when deemed absolutely necessary, based on assessment of the passenger."

Despite the incident, Henrik says he still plans to fly Ryanair, adding: "These things can happen. I have nothing against Ryanair."

Norway's biggest newspaper VG, which first broke the story, says that when it interviewed local police, even they "chuckled" when describing the incident.

Police officer Arild Kopperud told the paper it was up to Ryanair whether to press charges, but a Ryanair spokesman said today: "No further action will be taken."

Don't buy budget airline food

Instead of buying food on board, it's usually cheaper to get your provisions from the airport, once you've cleared security.

For instance, rather than opting for a £3.80 Ryanair sandwich, as Henrik did, Marks & Spencer charges £2.60 in UK airports for a roast chicken & sweetcorn sandwich.

Not only is it cheaper but it is usually far tastier (according to a straw poll of MSE staff).

Jenny Keefe, MoneySavingExpert.com consumer products analyst, says: "Airline food's rarely gourmet cuisine, so you'd be better off grabbing a sarnie from M&S in departures and taking it on the plane. As well as having a better selection, it's likely to be fresher.

"Alternatively, try to eat before you jet off or when you arrive. Ryanair flights are short-haul and generally only last a few hours anyway."

A Ryanair spokesman says of its chicken sandwich: "The sandwich, which was in-date and fresh that day, is a popular choice with passengers and I am not aware of any other passengers returning this product."

Your rights

While this incident happened outside the UK, under UK law, food should be of satisfactory quality. If it isn't, you can claim a full or partial refund depending on the problem (see the Consumer Rights guide).

If a restaurant or any other establishment threatens to call the police you can still dispute it, but to avoid any hassle, you could always pay, but state you're paying 'under protest' and challenge the cost later.

Further reading/Key links

Slash flights costs: Ryanair Flight Sale and Budget Airline Fee-Fighting
Find cheap air travel: FlightChecker