Budget airline Ryanair was unrepentant last week in the face of a landmark discrimination action over its policy of charging disabled passengers £18 for use of their wheelchairs.
The no-frills airline proposed the introduction of a levy of 50 pence a ticket on all passengers to cover the cost the day after they lost a case bought by a cerebral palsy sufferer. They have also promised to fight it on the grounds that the cost of wheelchair access should be covered by airport operators rather than airlines. It was a bad week for Ryanair after the European Commission ruled that they had received illegal state aid at Belgium's Charleroi airport.
The Disability Rights Commission is considering taking a class action against the airline, following the test case taken by Bob Ross seeking compensation for 50 disabled people who have complained about paying the wheelchair charge. Mr Ross, a regular passenger, is unable to stand for any considerable time and needs to use a wheelchair when moving through the crowds and queues, and over the long distances, at the airport.
Giving judgment, Judge Crawford Lindsay ruled that Ryanair acted unlawfully by not ensuring that a wheelchair was provided free of charge for Mr Ross to use at Stansted Airport. There was a duty under the Disability Discrimination Act to make 'a reasonable adjustment' for Mr Ross, by providing him with a free wheelchair so that he could get to the plane. Mr Ross was awarded £1336 in compensation, comprising the original cost of hiring a wheelchair (£36.00), the purchase of a wheelchair (£300) and injury to feelings (£1,000).