[access-uk] Ryanair is attacked for ejecting blind passengers

  • From: "Peter Beasley" <pjbeasley@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <access-uk@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 15 Dec 2010 00:15:14 -0000

Ryanair is attacked for ejecting blind passengers
Ryanair is attacked for ejecting blind passengers
By Martin Hickman, Consumer Affairs Correspondent
The Independent, Thursday, 13 October 2005
Ryanair, the no-frills airline, is under fire from disability
campaigners for ejecting nine blind and partially sighted passengers from a
plane just minutes before take-off.
The passengers, who were travelling to Italy for a walking holiday, had
completed check-in procedures and were sitting on the plane at Stansted when
the pilot announced they would have to vacate their seats. They were then
"marched" off and escorted back to the airport lounge.
Some waited six hours for another flight while others were forced to sleep
on the airport floor overnight. One of the party was so distressed by the
incident - to be featured on BBC's Watchdog
programme next week - she abandoned her holiday.
"It was dreadful. You felt like a criminal. We were all devastated," one of
the blind passengers, Beryl Barton, from Norwich, said. "Five minutes before
take-off the pilot asked: 'Are many of you blind?' and we said: 'Yes, one or
two' and he said: 'We have already got disabled people on the flight and you
will have to get off'. They marched us through to the lounge and this lady
came and she said: 'Of course, you got off of your own accord' and we
shouted: 'No, we haven't."
There was no safety justification, she insisted: "We can all walk.
We've all got a partially-sighted or sighted guide. We could get off as
quickly as anyone else."
Ryanair explained it could not take the customers because it already had
three "disabled" people on board (unconnected to the party) and it
stipulates no more than four "disabled" people on each flight.
However, the organiser of the trip, Katherine Hurst said she rang Ryanair
eight months before she travelled to check there would be no problems. She
said: "The pilot said: 'How would you manage if the cabin was full of smoke'
but it wouldn't make any difference. They are used to not seeing."
Ryanair, whose chief executive is Michael O'Leary, has a controversial
record on disabled people. Last year, it lost a case brought by a disabled
man who was charged 18 for the use of a whreelchair.
Afterwards it said that it would have to raise ticket prices as a result.
The Royal National Institute for the Blind has received eight complaints
about Ryanair, an unusually high number about one company.
In one case, it is considering legal action. Jane Vernon, its legal officer,
said: "I think Ryanair's whole attitude towards disabled people is
disgraceful. Saying on their website they are charging an extra 50p per
ticket to pay for wheelchairs for disabled people is despicable."
Ryanair insisted its policy on disabled passengers was "clearly highlighted"
on its website and did not know of the RNIB's cases. It said it had
"repeatedly apologised" to the passengers removed from the plane.
In-flight turbulence
Bob Ross took on Ryanair over being charged 18 for the use of a wheelchair
at Stansted in March 2002. When Mr Ross, a cerebral palsy sufferer, won the
case , Ryanair was quick to appeal, saying a 50p surcharge on all tickets
would be levied to cover the cost of providing wheelchairs. They lost the
In March this year, Ryanair was fined 24,000 for misleading customers about
the price of flights from Stansted.
This year, the airline, which charges employees for uniforms, announced that
mobile phones must not be charged at work.
An advert launched just after the London bombings featured Winston Churchill
saying: "We shall fly them to the beaches ... we shall fly them to London"
It drew 319 complaints, but was deemed "suitably respectful" by the
Advertising Standards Authority.

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