Organ transplant child barred from Ryanair flight for arriving late

Family rushed to catch a plane after being told that a liver and kidney donor had been found earlier that day

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The Independent Online

Ryanair refused to fly a sick child to an organ transplant operation because the boy’s family arrived at their departure airport “too close to the departure time,” it has been revealed.

The budget carrier routinely refuses to allow passengers to fly if they have arrived at the departure gate after the advertised time. However, this principle appears to have been applied to the letter in the case of the boy – who has not been identified – whose family rushed to catch a plane after being told that a liver and kidney donor had been found earlier that day.

The family, from Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands, were phoned last Saturday by La Paz hospital in Madrid to say that the crucial surgery could take place immediately. They went to the airport and tried to book seats on the first available flight – Ryanair, RYR2012, departing at 4.50pm.

However, after a consultation, which involved calls to Ryanair’s head office, the family were told they would not be allowed to board the flight, which left for the Spanish capital without them.

In a statement, a spokesman for Ryanair acknowledged the incident had taken place. “We have looked into this matter and, unfortunately, we were unable to accommodate this family on to our flight as it was too close to the departure time,” he said. “We have offered full assistance to the family regarding their flight requirements.” The airline refused to elaborate on the statement yesterday, or suggest what form that full assistance took. It would not say how close to take-off the family arrived at the airport, nor whether the family had bought the tickets before being told it could not fly.


The only later flight available was on a different airline, and the family later boarded an Air Europa plane instead, which flew them to Madrid 70 minutes later.

Officials at La Paz hospital are reported to have said the incident caused “hours of anguish”, and that they were not sure that the donated organs would be able to be used, given the delay. The boy’s condition has not been revealed.

On its website, Ryanair advises passengers that boarding closes 20 minutes before take-off, and that failure to be at the gate on time will leave passengers needing to book and pay for a new ticket on a later flight.

Ryanair, led by its combative chief executive, Michael O’Leary, is famed for its PR gaffes, some of which appear to be deliberate attempts to gain publicity.

Last month, the airline had to apologise for an advert that described the Sicilian city of Palermo as “dominated for many years by the Mafia and poverty”. The company said that a third party had provided the content and that “obviously” the advert did not reflect Ryanair’s view.

Tongue-in-cheek, the airline has in the past suggested that passengers might have to pay to use the toilet. However, more recently the company has tried to take itself upmarket by introducing a form of business class.