Ryanair told to provide free wheelchairs in breakthrough discrimination case

Ryanair lost an appeal yesterday against a ruling that it must provide free wheelchairs for disabled passengers in a landmark discrimination case.

But the budget airline scored a partial victory when the Court of Appeal ruled it could split the cost of providing wheelchairs with BAA, which operates Stansted Airport.

Ryanair had appealed against a London County Court ruling in January that it must cover the cost of paying for someone to push a wheelchair through the airport.

Yesterday the Court of Appeal said Ryanair and BAA had both unlawfully discriminated against disabled passengers for failing to ensure wheelchairs are provided for free. It rejected Ryanair's attempt to overturn the ruling.

BAA was ordered to split the £1,336 awarded to a passenger after he challenged an £18 charge to use a wheelchair at Stansted Airport. Ryanair had tried to claim that BAA should be responsible for providing wheelchairs for free because it levied the charge.

Bob Ross, who suffers from cerebral palsy and arthritis, brought the case against Ryanair 12 months ago. His compensation included the £36 cost of hiring the wheelchair on both parts of his journey to France, the £20 cost of a return ticket to Perpignan and £1,000 for injury to his feelings.

Bert Massie, who chairs the Disability Rights Commission, which backed Mr Ross's case, said: "This decision sends a signal to every airport and airline that disabled people will no longer put up with a second class service."