PO Box 306, Glasgow, G21 2AE, Scotland
the flight from vigo
This trip was the fourth my friends and I have taken to support Celtic in Europe. We have been to Lyon, Bordeaux and Amsterdam in the last three years, always with Keane to Travel and always on a day trip basis. This time, for a change, we decided to go overnight and to travel with Harry Hynds.
As usual we were really looking forward to the trip, not only for the game but for a visit to our Galician cousins. Hands across the water, so to speak.
The flight to Santiago started badly; delayed due to engine trouble, but nothing to worry about, we were assured by our captain. Our safety was his number one priority. There was a lot of coming and going at the front of the plane but we had to stay in our seats. If anyone tried to go to the toilet they were told to stay in their seat by Charmain, the senior flight attendant. With the delay, there didn't seem to be much interaction between the staff and the passengers. Senita, in particular, had a very surly attitude.
Finally, about two hours later we were off to Vigo with more reassurances from our captain that our safety was paramount. Fairly uneventful and a round of applause and cheers on landing.
We had a great day, the local people were warm and friendly and there was a lot of camaraderie before and after the game. In spite of our defeat we were through to the next round and spirits were soaring.
A 9 o'clock start the following morning promised an early return home to my family. How wrong could you get?
We travelled to Santiago by bus, no problem except a few sore heads and some of the comrades nursing hangovers. We went through the various controls and into the departure area. It should be noted there is no bar here.
The passengers were aware that our plane was being towed to the bottom of the steps; someone joked that there was engine trouble again. There did seem to be a very long wait until we could board. We were finally called and boarded. The cabin crew exhorted us to stack our bags and take our seats otherwise we would lose our slot. There was only one other plane at the airport. At this point the plane was only half full. Eventually we were all seated and ready for the off. Unfortunately there was no 'off'.
Once again there seemed to be engine problems. Not only was this frustrating it was also becoming rather worrying. This was the same plane that took us out to Spain. Did nobody bother to look at the engines overnight?
You can see the next part of the story coming can't you? "Sorry folks, there seems to be an engine problem but remember, we are thinking of your safety", comes the voice over the intercom. Some of the passengers became a little frustrated and there was a degree of swearing. The crew appeared to take offence and the captain gave us all a warning. This was a bit rich as Bradley, one of the stewards, was heard muttering that something or somebody was a 'motherfucker'.
Eventually we were allowed to disembark to stretch our legs. There was no indication given as to how long this would be. We went back to the airport with our luggage and had some lunch, which we paid for ourselves. Neither my friends nor myself had any beer and nor, for that matter, did I see many of the other passengers taking a drink.
Some time later we were called to board the plane. Once more our illustrious captain was impressing the need for safety and comfort as this was his company's main concern. Just as the crew was going through the emergency drill many of the passengers burst into 'YMCA'. The other male steward, Oue, was taking this in really good spirit. So much so that every time he walked past he was accompanied by a chorus of 'Sex Bomb'. This was all very lighthearted, not taken offence at and was written about in the papers.
We were in row 17, seats D, E and F. From where I was sitting there were certainly no incidents until the nicotine addict couldn't help himself. This definitely got us on the wrong side of Charmain and the captain. She told us about the no smoking and no drinking policy on their airline, which was fair enough. The captain then told us he was keeping us on the aircraft in Glasgow until the culprit was apprehended by the police. To my mind a bit extreme, but if that's the law...
He told us that the individual concerned was very stupid and that they were endangering others and affecting their safety. Safety and comfort were very much part of this man's ethos it would seem.
From a few rows behind me a man beckoned to Senita. I think he was telling her that he couldn't be held against his will. Her attitude was still very serious and she went to get Charmain. I'm not sure about the the incident that followed, but it looked as if Charmain was talking to a mature lady just in front of him about the same subject. She was fairly vociferous and not at all sympathetic to the lady's queries. A man said to her, "Haw you, you can't speak to that lady like that." I presume this was because of the attitude she was adopting towards the lady. This appeared to be her cue to run towards the back of the plane.
Seconds later Bradley ran to the front of the plane very purposefully and spoke to the captain on the intercom. The crew started rushing up and down the aisles filling plastic bags with dinner leftovers and not answering any questions. Suddenly our 737 went into a nosedive. No warning, no mention, no get ready. For what seemed like a long time we were pointing downwards. This was terrifying. We were grabbing on to the seat handles. Remember, we had engine problems in Glasgow, engine problems in Santiago and now we were going down like a Stuka. The captain had assured us several times about our safety and now we were hurtling earthwards without a word of explanation. I was beginning to doubt him.
We eventually pulled out of the dive and started a more gentle descent. It became fairly evident that we weren't going to Glasgow. There was no indication given to us.
Eventually we pulled up at Cardiff International Airport. At the bottom of the steps there were lots of very grave looking policemen, paramedics and firemen and, of course, basking in it all, the gentlemen of the press. This was serious. I was part of it and I didn't even know what was going on.
By my reckoning we were held on the plane for about an hour and we were not given any information either by the crew or the few policemen who had entered the plane. We were allowed to go to the toilet and through the door I could see a serious number of police and, worryingly, dogs as well. I was wondering what had caused all this. When I got back to my seat I heard the rumour that it was being claimed a stewardess had been assaulted.
A policeman eventually started letting us off the plane. We were told not to take our luggage. It was as if we stepped off the plane straight on to the BBC. My wife was very surprised to see me on the telly. She was even more surprised when she found out we had apparently been rioting on the plane.
Once we were inside the terminal building we were held in a large lounge surrounded by police. This was all very menacing. Anybody who had a mobile phone was phoning home. This is when we heard what had apparently been happening on our flight. There had been rioting, a mass brawl, drunken rampaging and assaults. None of us could believe what was going on. We didn't get any help from the Hynds reps, although to be fair to them I think they were pretty much in the dark as well.
We were all moved to a waiting room in the terminal with large numbers of police guarding every exit. A few supporters approached them and asked them what was going on. They were not very forthcoming. Eventually the top man came in and told us what was happening. It came as a bit of a shock.
It turned out that six of the lads had been arrested and that he was shocked at the level of trauma suffered by the crew. Not a mention of the level of trauma suffered by the passengers. The staff were now getting treatment for the injuries they had suffered someone was told. This was the first policeman who had spoken to us and it didn't look good. I felt we were being set up. It seemed to me that the only concern was for the staff. There were pensioners, ladies and children on our flight, as well as the lads, and no one was giving us a second thought. We had just landed in a 737 that had gone down like a dive bomber. As far as this man was concerned we were out of order. For what? Doing a bad impersonation of the Village People?
The mood was sombre, with the remaining fans just wandering about blethering to one another. However, once this particular officer left the rest of the cops became a bit more relaxed. The atmosphere lightened and they started talking to us. If the police had been expecting a confrontational situation they certainly weren't getting one. We were told that we would be getting refreshments and sandwiches soon and that we would be able to go to the toilet in small groups. We then queued up to make our statements which took a while to get through all 140. Afterwards, when we spoke to one another, it seemed as if we were all saying pretty much the same thing.
After all the statements were made we were called together in groups of six to ten in order to report to a policeman with our statements to go and collect our luggage. We were then accompanied to a bus to take us to Glasgow. It was nearly 10 o'clock. As the bus passed out of the perimeter fence we were photographed again. We were now hearing more of the rumours from earlier on. The captain had sent a mayday and RAF planes had been scrambled. We had heard from other passengers in the terminal that 60 of us had been brawling on the plane. This wasn't an exaggeration. It was complete lie. I thought of the overreaction of the cabin crew and the extreme measures taken by the captain and how embarrassed they must feel now.
We got on to the buses bound for Glasgow. No one took our names, there were no police and there were no travel reps either. Hardly what you would call protective custody for a bunch of soccer desperadoes hell bent on destruction. We had a good trip up to Glasgow, even stopping at service stations on the way. There was no fighting, no looting and no hooliganism. In fact the same behaviour that had taken place on the flight. Finally we got off the bus at Glasgow Airport a full 21 hours after leaving the hotel, exhausted but in one piece.
The South Wales Police had, in general, treated us well. I do, of course, exclude the senior policeman, who behaved like a ham actor both in front of us and when I saw him later on television. He looked like a glory-hunter.
My family were very pleased to see me. We had an emotional reunion. It was only later that we thought about what we had been through. We had been in an incident where our good names and characters had been besmirched. My young children were asking why I wasn't coming home while watching us on television being branded as hooligans. We had been called for everything by the media. Harry Hynds himself had a go at us, although he now seems to be backing us, and I didn't see Celtic FC coming to our rescue.
We felt our lives had been put at risk by the hysterical overreaction of the cabin crew. We felt our lives had been put at risk by the manoeuvres of the pilot in a plane that had had two bouts of engine trouble. Then to see the media having a field day at the expense of our club was simply too much to take.
Let's face it, once again Celtic took a huge travelling support to an away tie in Europe. The vast majority of these people are good, honest, hardworking individuals sacrificing their time and their holidays to support their beloved team in Europe. Once again we made friends with locals and left them with a good impression. From what I could see the club and individual supporters made outstanding contributions to the oil disaster funds.
None of this was mentioned. Instead we were branded as thugs before anyone asked what had happened.
At the very least I would like an apology and an explanation from the cabin crew, the pilot and the airline. I would like Harry Hynds to publicly back us and I would love to hear what the South Wales Police thought of all this.
Whatever happens, my friends and I will continue to give our great club our fullest support in the future, at home and abroad.
First of all, having just got back home within the last 10 minutes I am disgusted at what the papers are printing regarding this.
The average age on the plane was probably mid forties, a few kids, women, OAPs - this was not a plane load of young hardmen.
On leaving Glasgow on Thursday morning we were all sitting on the plane, engines going, leaving the stand. The engines stopped and we were taken back to the stand - we were told there was a slight technical problem with one of the engines. Engineers etc. came on and off the plane and after about an hour be were told the plane was ready to go.
Engines going, leaving the stand, the engines stopped and we were taken back to the stand again - told there was a slight technical problem with one of the engines. Engineers etc. came on and off the plane and after about an hour we were told the plane was ready to go.
Uneventful flight - bit of banter with cabin crew, all smiles nae problems.
Friday morning - we were all sitting on the plane, engines going, leaving the stand. The engines stopped and we were taken back to the stand - we were told there was a slight technical problem with one of the engines. Engineers etc. came on and off the plane and we were told to get off the plane.
No problems and after about two hours be were told the plane was ready to go. Everyone got back on the plane - again no problems.
Given that we had now suffered three "engine failures" everyone was a bit nervous about getting back on the plane but eventually we took off. There was no drink on the plane and a few people had had a few beers during the two hour delay but nobody was drunk. I've been on loads of these charters and, given the result, I can say that in terms of singing and shouting this was one of the quietest charters I have ever been on.
General atmosphere was summed up by a rendition of YMCA when the cabin crew were doing the safety announcement - cabin crew laughed, we laughed nae hassle.
About one hour into the flight the pilot announced that someone had been smoking in the toilets and that the police had been called and we would all be detained at Glasgow until the person owned up. A young boy, probably about 18, was accused of being responsible - two guys sitting across the aisle said he should grow up and take responsibility. A few voices were raised but NOBODY left their seat - the argument lasted about 3 minutes and nobody (cabin crew etc. included) intervened.
The two guys who argued with the young boy were later arrested and as I was sitting behind them I would be willing to stand up in court and say they did nothing more than raise their voice - because that is the truth.
During this the cabin crew were collecting the trays from lunch - a woman, probably in her 40/50s, there with her daughter asked one of the stewardesses if anyone had owned up to the smoking as she didn't want to be delayed at Glasgow Airport. The stewardess, pointing her finger at the woman said that an attitude like hers would lead her to get arrested as well. A guy, sitting behind the woman then tapped the stewardess's shoulder and said that there was no need for that sort of threats the woman was only asking a question.
Then all hell broke loose - one of the stewards went running into the pilot's cabin, came running back out and then, in a blind panic, started frantically collecting the remaining trays. The cabin crew were running about the plane with trollies etc. nearly hysterical.
AT NO POINT DURING ALL THIS DID THE PILOT LEAVE HIS CABIN AND COME OUT AND SEE WHAT WAS HAPPENING - I was sitting in row 3 so had a pretty good view of the cabin door and can ensure you he never even put his head round the door.
Given the previous 3 engine failures, the hysteria from the cabin crew and the fact we were only half way through the flight time it became pretty clear to everyone on the plane we has some sort of difficulty and were in trouble. The plane plunged from the sky (that is not an exaggeration) and banked steeply and the majority of people assumed the engine had failed and we were crash landing.
By this time the cabin crew were in there seats, nearly crying. There was sort of a quiet hysteria on the plane at this point - I openly admit I was absolutely terrified and thought we were going to crash - but NOBODY left their seats and there was no abuse, just genuine concern.
Don't know how long this went on for but eventually we landed somewhere (Cardiff, but we didn't know) and the plane was immediately surrounded by armed police with dogs, fire brigade and ambulances.
Eventually, probably after about an hour we were taken off the plane one row at a time. This is when I saw the guys sitting in front of me being arrested. We were then made to sit in a room, surrounded by armed police for six hours - had to be escorted to the toilet etc. etc. - every person on the plane gave a statement and I am 100% sure they will not differ from mine.
To be fair to the Cardiff police - they were very good - friendly, organised food etc. etc.
Then eventually, at 2200 last night, we were put on buses and driven the nine hours to Glasgow. The astonishing thing being that the 144 "rioters" from the plane were put on buses which were told to stop at two service stations where there was absolutely no police presence. The six guys arrested - two in front of me, who I know did nothing one guy who was loud,(since when did being loud become a crime?) the guy who touched the stewardesses shoulder to get her attention and two guys who caused such a rumpuss I cannot tell you where they were or what they did.
If you think that constitutes a riot then fair enough but I don't and cannot believe what has happened.
Back to top