Passenger Wins Ryanair Discrimination Suit
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 30, 2004
LONDON, ENGLAND--Bob Ross won his legal battle with airline giant Ryanair over its policy of charging him to use an airport wheelchair.
Judge Crawford Lindsay QC ruled Friday that Ryanair acted unlawfully by not making sure a wheelchair was provided for Ross, who has cerebral palsy and arthritis. He ordinarily does not use a wheelchair, but the one kilometer distance from the check-in desk to the airplane at Stansted Airport was too far for him to walk.
While other airlines cover the cost of such wheelchairs at all of their airports, Ryanair would not cover the cost at Stansted and five other airports. The airline charged Ross an £18 fee (about $28.25 US) for the use of a wheelchair each way. Ross and the Disability Rights Commission, which represented him in the case, said the fee was a form of discrimination.
In its ruling, the court awarded Ross £1,336 ($2,435 US), which included his original £36 for renting a wheelchair on a round trip journey to France, along with the £300 purchase of his own wheelchair, and £1,000 for injury to his feelings.
A spokesperson for Ryanair, which touts itself as "The Low Fares Airline", said the company plans to appeal the ruling and would now add 50 pence to every passenger ticket -- regardless of whether they use a wheelchair or not.
Disability rights advocates applauded the ruling, but said they were disappointed that the company planned to add such a high surcharge to all passengers. One advocate, interviewed on BBC-TV, said that an analysis showed the maximum cost to Ryanair at about 17 pence per passenger -- suggesting that the company planned to profit from the ruling while attempting to sour passengers' attitudes toward Ross and other riders with disabilities.
"What I want to see now is for the policy to be changed and the charges dropped," Ross told the BBC.
"I hope that Ryanair will see that it's wrong to charge disabled passengers for the use of wheelchairs and get rid of the charges."
The DRC wants Ryanair to compensate 35 other people with disabilities who have complained about having to pay the wheelchair fee. The charity said that if the company does not compensate them, it will file a class action against the airline.
"Why is the Ryanair case important?" by disability affairs reporter Geoff Adams-Spink (BBC News Online)