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Ryanair Flight Takes Off Without Wheelchair Passenger

February 21, 2017

A passenger in a wheelchair watched her Ryanair flight from Dublin to London take off without her after she was asked to walk up the stairs “for easiness’ sake”.

European studies student Niamh Herbert was due to board the 6.30am flight from Dublin to London Stansted on Friday for a trip to London fashion week. The 20-year-old was diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia when she was 13 and requires a wheelchair when travelling.

She told the Guardian she had checked in at about 5am with no problems, but was told at the boarding gate she would have to wait 15 minutes to be helped on to the plane in her wheelchair.

She said: “Ryanair is the only airline I’ve ever flown with that puts passengers in wheelchairs on last rather than first.”

Herbert says at one point a member of staff approached her and asked if she would be able to climb the stairs to the plane “for easiness’ sake”.

She said: “I thought, how dare they ask a person in a wheelchair that question?”

It was then, Herbert says, the captain called the boarding desk and said, while he understood the situation, the plane would take off without her. After telling her friends to board the plane, as she believed it would be easier for her to try to get a later flight by herself, Herbert was left alone at the gate.

“I was visibly distraught and a few people in the airport came up to me, asked me if they could help or buy me tea, but Ryanair staff barely spoke to me.”

Herbert eventually caught a later flight to London, arriving at about 10am on Friday.

The Trinity College student tweeted about her experiences from @Ireland, a Twitter account that is curated by a different person each week.

The only response Herbert says she has received from Ryanair’s customer services has been to the @Ireland account.

She is now consulting with her students’ union at Trinity College Dublin for legal advice.

According to Ryanair’s FAQs, passengers requiring “special assistance” are recommended to book it in advance. A spokesperson for Ryanair told the Guardian: “While we regret any inconvenience, this customer arrived at the boarding gate 13 minutes before the flight was due to depart and had not booked any wheelchair services.

“Our crew provided full assistance and as a gesture of goodwill, transferred this customer on to the next available flight, free of charge, and the customer flew to London Stansted. Had this customer booked wheelchair assistance and arrived at the boarding gate on time, there would have been no issue.

‘Every effort was made to accommodate this customer on to their flight and they were then transferred to the next available flight.”

Herbert said she informed Ryanair she would be travelling in her wheelchair when she booked an initial flight on the Thursday. When a friend dropped out of the trip, she changed her flight to Friday and assumed her wheelchair requirements would be passed on.

She said: “I felt guilty about that at first but then I realised it’s not my fault if they don’t pass the information on. My brother has the same condition as me and flew from Dublin with my mother. They did not contact Ryanair beforehand that time, but there was no issue.”

In 2011, Ryanair was successfully sued by a woman with multiple sclerosis who had to be carried on to a flight by her husband. Last year, a terminally ill woman from Derby was stranded in Malta after watching her flight leave without her while she sat in a lift that was meant to help her board the plane.

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