One woman traveller who claimed to have cancer was reduced to tears after Flybe staff demanded she pay the levy for a Sunday flight from the Capital to Birmingham.
Fed-up customers claimed they only mutinied after being asked to stump up even if their bags met requirements, while the airline said it takes a zero tolerance approach to disruptive behaviour.
“They were basically holding people to ransom because they were booked on the flight and felt they had to pay the charge,” said passenger Danny Bownes, 49.
The operations manager had flown to the Capital with fiancée Simone Kilgallon to celebrate Burns Night for her birthday.
He said that their cabin bags fitted into Flybe’s measuring box on the way up from Birmingham and were accepted without a problem.
But Mr Bownes said: “On the way back there was a bit of a queue forming and a kerfuffle. Some people were struggling with their bags.
“They were being told their bags had to ‘fall in and fall out’ [of the measuring box] but some were a bit snug and they were being told to pay £50.
“There was one lady who said she had cancer and didn’t have the strength to pull her bag out.
“She was crying and asking, ‘Why are you speaking to me like this?’ and, ‘Why are you threatening me?’ The guy threatened to call the police on her. She was in absolute tears
“There was a pregnant woman as well.
“The guy was physically shaking – he was getting angrier and angrier.
“Unless the cabin bags are rigid plastic then they’re going to flex when they’re canvas. But when they’re pushed into the right shape they fit in the box – that’s all that’s required.
“One of the passengers even said they’d bought their bag from Flybe!”
Mr Bownes said up to ten passengers may have paid the £50 levy before the rest of the 100 or so travellers refused as they prepared to board at 11.35am.
“I pushed my bag in and asked if he was happy with it and he said, ‘No’ and I’d have to pay £50. I went to my case, took out my partner’s coat and she put it on and tried again [to fit the bag]. I asked him if he was happy now and he said, ‘Erm, OK.’
“They get charged for late departing and they didn’t open the gate until five or ten minutes before, so I suspect they were getting the money back from passengers.
“It’s rubbish customer service and some of the people they’re doing this to can’t afford £50.
“It was the more vulnerable and quiet people who got stung – others just flat refused.”
Fellow passenger Rhona McDonald tweeted: “Disgusting treatment at Edinburgh Airport by duty manager for flight BE845 to Birmingham.
“Threatening people with the police because they couldn’t lift their bag easily out of the size checker and tried to explain rules to him. Bullies like this should read the rules!”
A spokesman for Exeter-based Flybe said the firm allow passengers to take on board two pieces of cabin baggage, but charges apply if luggage exceeds stated sizes.
He added: “Flybe can confirm that our ground handling agents across the network are enforcing our established baggage policy that has not changed since being introduced in 2016. This makes it fair for everyone and also speeds boarding.
“The airline also confirms that it adopts a zero tolerance policy against any disruptive, threatening or anti-social behaviour aimed towards any of its employees or third party agents who are lawfully carrying out their duties.”