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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 February, 2004, 14:44 GMT
Ryanair to appeal over wheelchair
Michael O'Leary
Michael O'Leary says the airports should provide wheelchairs
Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary has spoken out strongly against a court judgement that has ordered his airline to provide free wheelchairs.

Mr O'Leary vowed that Ryanair would appeal and reiterated his belief that it was the airports' responsibility to provide any needed wheelchairs.

His comments come after the airline was successfully sued by a passenger it had charged 18 to use a wheelchair.

Mr O'Leary added that he expected the appeal to be successful.

Insisting that Ryanair did not discriminate, he predicted that the 50p surcharge the airline has now added to the cost of every ticket to cover the price of any needed wheelchairs would be short-lived.

Airline v airport

Speaking to the BBC's Breakfast with Frost show, Mr O'Leary insisted that the low cost airline had never in its history charged a wheelchair-user more for his or her ticket.

But differentiating between those who arrive at an airport in a wheelchair and those who walk through the doors only to then go on and need one, he said it was the airports who should pay for the latter.

"Ryanair has never in its life charged anybody extra for being in a wheelchair," he said.

"If you are in wheelchair you have never been charged any more money by Ryanair, we absorb the cost."

Yet Mr O'Leary said Ryanair was unwilling to pay for any wheelchairs that might be needed by a passenger after he or she had walked into an airport.

Possible reduction

He insisted it was only an issue at six of the 86 European airports the airline flew from, such as London Stansted, from where passenger Bob Ross found he required the use of a wheelchair.

When Ryanair charged him 18, it led to last week's court defeat for the company.

Mr O'Leary said: "Our beef is not with Mr Ross. But he flew with Ryanair to the south of France for 10, and now we will have to pay up to 18 to provide a wheelchair - almost twice that fare. This is wrong.

"At 80 of the 86 airports we fly to, the airport provides any needed wheelchairs."

Mr O'Leary said that BAA, the owner of Stansted, Heathrow and Gatwick airports should do the same.

State aid

He added that he expected the appeal to be successful, and that in the meantime if the 50p ticket surcharge raised more money than was needed to provide any wheelchairs, the cost would be reduced.

In a separate matter, Ryanair expects European Union regulators to rule on Tuesday that it received illegal discounts from the Belgian authorities to fly to Brussels Charleroi airport.

If that is the case, Ryanair has confirmed it plans legal action against other airlines flying into state-owned airports.

In a statement it said: "If there is an unacceptable decision, Ryanair will not only appeal it, but has instructed its advisors to initiate state aid cases and complaints against every other airline flying into every state airport which offers concessions and discounts."

Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O'Leary
"Airport operators should provide access through their airports free of charge"

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