Airline Accused Of 'Blatant Profiteering' From Court
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 11, 2004
LONDON, ENGLAND--When Ryanair announced last month that it would charge all passengers an extra 50 pence surcharge to cover the cost of providing wheelchairs to passengers who need them, some disability rights advocates thought it was a bit too much. One advocate told the BBC that an analysis showed the maximum cost to Ryanair at about 17 pence per passenger -- suggesting the company planned to profit from a court ruling which ordered it to begin making wheelchairs available.
Now one member of Parliament is accusing the airline of "blatant profiteering".
Lord Carter, who heads a committee examining the Disability Discrimination Bill, said the actual cost of the service at Stansted Airport is only about 2 pence per ticket, meaning that Ryanair could gain as much as 48 pence per passenger.
Ryanair announced the surcharge the same day a court found the carrier had violated the law by not providing a wheelchair for passenger Bob Ross. Touting itself as "The Low Cost Airline", Ryanair had charged Ross, who has cerebral palsy, an £18 fee (about $28 US) each way for the use of a wheelchair at Stansted.
Ross and the Disability Rights Commission, which represented him in the case, argued that the fee was a form of discrimination. The court agreed and ordered Ryanair to pay Ross £1,336 ($2,435 US), and to provide wheelchairs for passengers that ask for them in the future.
The airline plans to appeal the ruling. Attorneys for Ryanair claim that current law requires airports -- not airlines -- to provide wheelchair services.
"Why is the Ryanair case important?" by disability affairs reporter Geoff Adams-Spink (BBC News Online -- January 30, 2004)