A group of Britons who are in Brussels for an official tour of the European Parliament have accused budget airline Ryanair of "absolutely atrocious" customer service after they were told it would cost them around £6,000 (€7,600) to fly home early in the wake of bomb attacks in the Belgian capital.
Councillors were among the party of 28 people from north-west England who had been invited to Brussels by British Labour MEP Afzal Khan.
They flew into Brussels South Charleroi Airport with Ryanair this morning and were due return on Wednesday night.
One of the group, councillor Chris Webb - who represents the Northenden ward at Manchester City Council - said after arriving they were told the centre of the city was "in lockdown" following the attacks on the metro system and Brussels Zaventem airport.
He explained that the group, which ranged in age from 18 to 80, feared for their safety and wanted to return home today.
But Mr Webb said he was told by staff at Ryanair's customer service desk at the airport that it would cost around £6,000 to change the flights.
He then spent more than two hours trying to speak to someone from the airline over the phone, without success.
"It's absolutely atrocious. This is a stressful situation as it is," he said.
"Obviously it doesn't compare to the tragedy of the lives lost. But all I want is for us to get a flight home."
He added: "There's a lack of understanding.
"Their first reaction was 'pay for a flight home', not 'you already have a flight home, you are a customer'."
Bill Esterson, Labour MP for Sefton Central, raised a point of order in the UK's House of Commons to urge ministers to "intervene and suggest to Ryanair and other carriers that all efforts are made to help those who want to come back to this country in a reasonable way".
Ryanair issue a statement which noted that the group had paid £20 (€25.50) each for the flight departing on Wednesday.
The no-frills airline said they were offered to alter their schedule to return today at a cost of £60 (€76.70) for the "change fee" and £154 (€197) for the difference in fares.
The statement went on: "Ryanair has been prioritising free changes and transfers for passengers travelling on flights to and from Brussels Zaventem today and tomorrow.
"We regret any inconvenience caused to this group but our priority today remains re-accommodating our disrupted Brussels Zaventem passengers, and all other passengers are free to avail of our change facility in the normal manner."