A woman and her disabled son were left feeling “humiliated” after they were asked to disembark a Ryanair flight because staff couldn’t fold down his wheelchair.
Kathleen Dunne, 81, and her son Gary, 53, were due to fly to Malta from Liverpool John Lennon Airport on 28 August, but when they went to check in, a member of staff said the rules had changed regarding how wheelchairs were stowed.
The chair would have to be folded down, but Ms Dunne did not have the manual with her and did not know how to do it herself.
The retired shopkeeper, who is a carer for Gary, told the Liverpool Echo they had travelled with Ryanair many times before and never experienced any issues. They were also not made aware of any rule change before flying.
The pair were eventually allowed to board the aircraft, only to watch ground staff struggling with the wheelchair outside.
“They came on the plane and said the wheelchair has got to be a certain height,” Ms Dunne said. “I am 81, I don’t know how to fold it.
“They said you will have to get off the plane or leave it. I said he can’t walk.
“I just said get me off, everyone is looking at me.”
Staff eventually managed to work out how to fold the chair, and mother and son were rebooked on the next available flight from Manchester Airport on 29 August.
However, a similar situation arose when she was again asked to leave the plane.
Mr Dunne is deaf as well as having severe mobility issues; Ms Dunne said: “It was horrible. I was shaking, and it was so hard to explain what was going on to Gary because he can’t hear.
“We have been flying with them for years and there has never been any problem. I didn’t feel like going on holiday after that.”
Ms Dunne claims the pilot said over the intercom, “Sorry for the delay, it is not our problem, it is the problem of the lady with the wheelchair.”
She added: “I am still upset about it now.”
Ryanair is not responsible for accessibility services at the airports, which it said are run “at great expense to the airlines”.
OmniServ, the company that provides special assistance at Liverpool airport, said in a statement: “On behalf of the entire Liverpool John Lennon Airport team, we apologise for the inconveniences Kathleen Dunne and her son experienced.
“Ryanair’s wheelchair size restrictions require that all wheelchairs must fold down to 81cms or less to be safely loaded and stored in the plane’s hold. Various members of the team worked tirelessly with Ms Dunne to ascertain if the wheelchair could be collapsed to meet the requirements.
“Unfortunately, she did not believe it could be collapsed and did not have a manual, so they had to be taken off the flight. After additional trial and error, the team was able to remove a pin and collapse the wheelchair.
“Ms Dunne, her son and the wheelchair were able to take a later flight out.
“While OmniServ does not create policies around wheelchairs onboard flights, we endeavour to work closely with the airport, airlines and other service providers to ensure a seamless service to all passengers, including those with a disability or reduced mobility.”
Ryanair’s rules stipulate that the dimensions of wheelchairs when collapsed must not exceed 81cm (height), 119cm (width) and 119cm (depth), and that wheelchairs and mobility scooters weighing more than 150kg require pre-authorisation.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies