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Tuesday, 3 September, 2002, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
Ryanair faces disability lawsuit
Ryanair airplane takes off
Ryanair denies it is failing disabled passengers
Budget airline Ryanair is facing legal action over claims of discrimination against disabled passengers.

I get charged 18 each way by Ryanair for the right to access the airport's wheelchairs

Bob Ross
Wheelchair user

The Disability Rights Commission has announced plans for court proceedings against Ryanair and the airports company BAA after complaints that passengers with special needs have been charged extra for wheelchair transport to catch their flights.

Ryanair has denied the claims, saying it provides free wheelchair assistance to passengers.

Passengers travelling without their own wheelchair can obtain one free at 50 out of 56 of the European airports to which the airline flies, a Ryanair spokeswoman told BBC News Online.

Complaints

The Commission said it was not fair that disabled passengers might have to pay more to reach their aircraft seats.

It said it had received complaints from several Ryanair passengers, who said they had been forced to pay extra for wheelchair assistance from the check-in desk at London Stansted airport, to the departure gate.

Both Ryanair and BAA warn travellers that there may be additional fees.

But the Commission argues that it is illegal to discriminate against disabled passengers by charging them more for goods or services.

'No charge'

A Ryanair spokeswoman said: "Ryanair provides full assistance to wheelchair passengers free of charge.

"In order to qualify for assistance a passenger must be travelling in his or her own wheelchair...a passenger without their own wheelchair will be directed to the wheelchair provider at the airport," the Ryanair spokeswoman said.

The six airports which do not provide free wheelchair service for passengers without a chair are Dublin, Stansted, Gatwick, Luton, Shannon, Leeds and Bradford, she said.

BAA said it was surprised to be included in the Commission's claim as it believes it has fulfilled its responsibilities under the Disability Discrimination Act.

Responsibility for helping wheelchair users is shared between the airport and the airline, it said.

"BAA provides a free service up to the point of check-in when the airlines take over and they provide assistance from the check-in to the aircraft", a BAA spokeswoman told BBC News Online.

"We don't support the direct passing of charges for reduced mobility on to those passengers," she said.

Poor passenger service

BAA offers this service in all the airports it runs, which include Gatwick and Stansted, she said.

One of the complaints to the DRC came from Bob Ross, who has cerebral palsy and is unable to stand up for long.

"Unlike other airlines, I get charged 18 each way by Ryanair for the right to access the airport's wheelchairs," he said.

Ryanair was criticised for poor passenger service only last month.

It came third behind British Airways and Air France in a league table listing standards of service, compiled by the air passengers' watchdog, the Air Transport Users Council.



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