Pensioner thrown off flight for refusing to put bagpipes in hold

Jennifer Hutcheon was frogmarched across the airport by armed police

Updated: 

A pensioner was thrown off a flight by armed police officers — for refusing to place her bagpipes in the plane's hold.

Scottish piper Jennifer Hutcheon was frogmarched across the airport building by firearms cops and soldiers after falling foul of Ryanair staff.

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The 67-year-old, who is a world champion piper, was returning from Belgium after playing a lament at the grave of her grandfather, 100 years to the day after his death in World War I.

But the emotional pilgrimage was ruined by her traumatic incident at Charleroi Airport as Jennifer tried to carry her pipes on board a plane as hand luggage, the Daily Record reported.

After being barred from the flight, she was forced to sleep in the airport overnight before finally catching a flight home the next day.

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Credits: Daily Record

Jennifer, who is a world champion piper, was returning from Belgium after playing a lament at the grave of her grandfather

Jennifer, from Bridge of Earn, near Perth, said yesterday: "I couldn't believe what was happening to me.

"The local Ryanair crew member completely went overboard when I refused to let him take my bagpipes and I removed a sticker he put on my bag – he turned into Bonaparte.

"The next thing is that two police officers and two soldiers with big guns are telling me to leave the queue and they marched me across the airport to some offices.

"I was then led out to an exit and told to go on my way."

Jennifer, an adjudicator for the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association, said trouble flared last Monday when Ryanair staff started choosing passengers' bags to go in the hold, because there were too many suitcases for the cabin.

The pipes are priceless to her and she was concerned they would be damaged.

Credits: Daily Record

She refused to put her priceless pipes into the hold

She was transporting them in a small suitcase that comfortably met Ryanair's strict sizing policy.

Yet when she tried to explain the situation to the staff member, she claims he "completely refused to listen to what I had to say" and called in the airport's armed response team.

After her ordeal, Jennifer was forced to spend a night in the airport with a friend.

The pair flew home the next morning on new one-way tickets that cost her a total of £472.33.

Ironically, her eventual flight home was also with Ryanair – and Jennifer was able to take her pipes on board as hand luggage without any problems.

She said the cabin staff "couldn't have been nicer" on that occasion.

Jennifer at Menin Gate

Jennifer travelled to Belgium to mark the 100th anniversary of the death of her grandad James High-Spence, who was killed by a stray German shell close to Ypres aged just 25.

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She also played a lament at the Belgian town's famous Menin Gate, which honours the fallen, as hundreds of people looked on.

James was buried in the Vlamertinghe military cemetery, close to Ypres.

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Jennifer's grandfather was a WWI hero

Jennifer paid tribute at the artillery sergeant's graveside to mark the exact time he died on July 7, 1917. She added: "It was very emotional for me. The last time I visited his grave I only had a practice chanter and I promised I'd return one day with the full set.

"I played a lovely piece called the First Variation of Macintosh's Lament.

"I then went on to the Menin Gate at Ypres and played Flowers of the Forest for all the people there.

"It was a lovely, but hugely emotional, trip for us that has now been completely ruined by this man's actions.

"I don't want anyone else to be treated like that ever again."

A spokesman for Ryanair said: "This customer was one of the last to board the aircraft and, in line with our cabin baggage policy, was asked to place her bag in the hold as the overhead lockers were full, but refused and became disruptive.

"Local police were called and removed the individual from the terminal.

"The safety and comfort of our customers, crew and aircraft is our number one priority and we will not tolerate unruly or disruptive behaviour at any time.

"This now a matter for local police."

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