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Lovells has won compensation from budget airline Ryanair in a pro bono appointment on behalf of some visually impaired passengers. The passengers were refused carriage on the grounds that their flight had already met its quota of 'mobility-impaired' passengers.
The group was travelling to Italy for a walking holiday and had already boarded the aircraft and taken their seats when on-board staff ordered them to disembark.
The group alleged that Ryanair ground staff then informed them that they had disembarked voluntarily, meaning that they would not qualify for assistance or compensation under the European Commission Denied Boarding Regulations.
Although the airline did arrange for the group to be booked onto later flights as a "favour", four of them were forced to sleep on the floor of Stansted Airport awaiting an early flight the following day, with no offer of food or accommodation.
The six passengers were represented by Lovells litigation associate Richard Brown, who said: "It struck me that the group had been treated particularly unfairly so I was keen to help them get a settlement."
Ryanair's insistence that the group had not been 'denied boarding' under the meaning of the Commission's Denied Boarding Regulations surrounded its claim that the quota of four mobility-impaired passengers per flight was necessary for safety reasons.
The complainants argued that they were not mobility impaired simply because they were visually impaired, as all of them had sighted guides. Consequently they should have been paid compensation and, where appropriate, offered accommodation under the regulations.
Ryanair claimed that it was within its rights under its terms and conditions to refuse carriage, although the airline has subsequently changed its policy towards the carriage of visually impaired passengers.
A settlement was reached before proceedings were issued.