Why is it acceptable for Sophie Morgan to be turned away from an Easyjet flight for being disabled?

Disabled Paralympics presenter Sophie Morgan was told she couldn't fly with Easyjet unless she had a companion with her.

Related Topics

Over the course of the summer, in the run up to and during the hugely successful Paralympics, a lot of talk was made about the ‘legacy’ that the games would leave behind.

A sense of hope and optimism swept the nation, as well as a feeling that London 2012 had changed people’s perceptions about disability, to the point that real changes would take place.

Sadly,less than two months after the flame was extinguished, it seems a lot of that has been forgotten; attitudes towards disabled people remain largely unchanged and they still face the same problems on a daily basis.

One story this week has really driven this point home and highlights the ongoing battle facing disabled people when they travel.

It concerns Sophie Morgan, part of Channel 4’s Paralympics presentation team this summer, and ironically last seen on Tuesday night’s Channel 4 News, reporting on the problems facing disabled people attempting to fly.

Sophie, who was paralysed in a car accident aged 18, is no stranger to long-distance travel. She has been across the globe to speak at the prestigious TED conferences, as well as for television work, so a short-haul Easyjet flight to Glasgow, for work with the BBC, did not appear to pose much of a problem.

Unfortunately this did not prove to be the case.

Sophie has claimed she was told that because she could not walk to an exit unaided, or climb a flight of stairs, that she would not be able to fly; with Easyjet maintaining that in order to be allowed to fly she would have to have a companion with her.

Only a day after reporting on the difficulties disabled people face while on planes, Sophie found herself unable to even board one:

“The anger and frustration I feel at this situation is hard to articulate. What has happened here, like with many other examples of disability discrimination, is that I have had my ability to choose taken away from me. I am utterly powerless to their policy,” she said.

“It's time that disabled people make the rules under which we have to live. It's wrong that the policies do not understand our basic human rights. I currently feel a mixture of fury and sadness, that despite all my efforts to live my life as a normal human being, I am unable to, and like so many others, I am having my limitations defined for me, my risks evaluated for me and my choices decided for me.”

She has received many messages of disbelief and support, including one from Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, who herself has been a victim of discrimination from the airline in the past.

Tellingly, there were also some who didn’t think that what had happened was discrimination, saying that it was mentioned in the airline’s terms and conditions - this is where the real problem lies.

Having been born with a condition that has meant I have become steadily more dependent on the use of a wheelchair over the years, I am very aware of the problems facing independent disabled travellers, while also understanding the difficulties for those trying to accommodate them.

Although if I have any bias, it is perhaps not what you would expect.  In fact all too often I have found myself accepting blatant discrimination as just a normal aspect of everyday life. Whether on buses, trains or planes, travel in a wheelchair is rarely straightforward.

As someone once said to me: “Is travel just expected to be a massive inconvenience just because someone uses a wheelchair?”

Now surely it really is time for attitudes to change. Disabled travellers have enough problems to overcome already, like the inaccessibility of the London Underground (a topic worthy of its own debate), without adding ill-conceived, outdated company policies and, as is often the case, people’s sheer inflexibility and unhelpfulness.

So rather than just talking with pride about the incredible feats of our Paralympians and the ‘incredible legacy’ that the games are going to leave behind, perhaps we, and international airlines, should actually ensure that they do.

Easyjet have since denied the claims made by Sophie.

An easyJet spokesperson said:

Unfortunately Sophie’s travel agent provided us with inaccurate information. Had we been given the correct information Sophie would have been able to fly unaccompanied.”

“easyJet takes this issue extremely seriously. Around 1000 passengers requiring special assistance travel with us every day and in a recent survey 88% of passengers with reduced mobility told us they were happy with the service and assistance they received.

“To ensure we can provide the best possible experience for our passengers earlier this year we have created an independent advisory group, chaired by David Blunkett MP, along with external experts from UK and European associations. The group was set up specifically to examine and overcome issues encountered by passengers with reduced mobility and ensure we fully comply with all related regulation.”

To read a detailed report into the difficulties facing disabled air travellers, conducted by the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign’s Trailblazers, click here

To read Sophie Morgan’s full story, click here

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trust Accountant - Kent

NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: randstad education are curre...

Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: You must:- Speak English as a first lang...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Randstad Education Group: If you are a committed Te...

Day In a Page

Read Next

i Editor's Letter: There's a crackle in the Brum air

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Obama has admitted that his administration underestimated the threat posed by Isis  

Syrian air-strikes: Does the US have the foggiest idea who their enemy is?

Kim Sengupta
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style