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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 October 2005, 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK
Blind group told to leave plane
Group of travellers
Ryanair said it had a limit on disabled passengers
A party of blind and partially sighted people are demanding compensation from budget airline Ryanair after they were ejected from a flight.

The group of nine from Norwich were on board a plane bound for Italy when they were asked to get off.

Trip organiser Katherine Hurst said the stewardess told them they had too many disabled people on the flight.

A Ryanair spokesman said the incident was "unfortunate" but four disabled passengers per flight was its limit.

Later flight

"It is for safety reasons so that the crew can attend to these passengers individually in case of emergency evacuations," he said.

"This was just an extraordinary situation. It was an unfortunate incident and we do sympathise."

This group have had their entire holiday ruined by Ryanair
Richard Howitt MEP

The spokesman said the party were asked to travel on a later flight because they did not notify the airline of the disabilities at the time of booking, and there were already three disabled passengers on board.

The ticketing agent allowed the group on to the plane without realising that it contained blind and partially-sighted people, he said.

Katherine Hurst, from Norwich, said she had called Ryanair on 20 January to check that there were no travel restrictions placed on the group.

'Publicly humiliated'

The group - members of The Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind - comprised of six blind and three partially sighted people who were travelling with three carers.

Mrs Hurst said when she was asked if the group needed assistance she said they did not, and was told to go ahead and book.

She said when the party arrived at Stansted in September they checked in as normal, were given priority boarding and took their seats.

She said the stewardess then told the group they had "more disabled people than they were allowed to carry".

The group said they were "publicly humiliated", and one woman was so upset she abandoned her holiday.

They were split up on to two planes, and some had to spend the night sleeping in the airport.

MEP support

Senior lecturer in Air Transport Studies at Loughborough University Dr David Gillingwater said: "The Ryanair line is that they are a cheap and cheerful no-frills airline and in order to offer rock bottom prices there must be restrictions.

"So anyone who is not average, conventional or just slightly different will have problems.

"Ryanair is a private company and they can do what they want and create their own terms and conditions.

"The big problem is getting low-cost airlines like Ryanair to accept responsibility for all passengers."

The group's case has been taken up by East of England Labour MEP Richard Howitt, who is president of the Disability Rights Group of MEPs.

"This group have had their entire holiday ruined by Ryanair," he said.

Last year, Ryanair was ordered to compensate a passenger with cerebral palsy who was charged to use a wheelchair.

Bob Ross, of north London, was awarded more than 1,300 after he challenged an 18 charge.




SEE ALSO:
Wheelchair users' rights upheld
21 Dec 04 |  Business


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