Wheelchair user wins landmark case against airline

    Disabled travellers won a major victory at the appeal court this
    week when judges said budget airline Ryanair and Stansted airport
    must provide a wheelchair service, writes Haroon
    Ashraf.

    Ryanair lodged an appeal after it was ordered to pay damages to
    disabled man Bob Ross who they charged for using a wheelchair at
    Stansted Airport in Essex.

    The airline said since the charge was levied by airport’s owners
    the British Airport Authority they should provide a free wheelchair
    service not the airline.

    However judges said the airline and airport authority had a
    joint responsibility to help disabled passengers between the
    airline check in and the departure gate.

    The case was brought to the Court of Appeal in London on behalf
    of Ross by the Disability Rights Commission (DRC).

    “It will have an impact on every British airport and
    airline and will ensure disabled people receive the same standard
    of service as non-disabled travellers”, said the DRC in a
    statement.

    Ryanair wanted the claim to be dismissed but the judges also
    said the airport authority was guilty of unlawful discrimination
    and should share liability over damages and interest.

    In January this year a county court found that Ryanair had
    breached the Disability Discrimination Act and ordered it to pay
    damages to Ross, 54, who has cerebral palsy and arthritis.

    Ross was awarded £1336 compensation, which included the
    £36 cost of hiring the wheelchair on the inward and outward
    journeys to France.

    Stansted Airport said after the ruling it believed it had been
    fulfilling its responsibilities to disabled travellers.

    It apologised to Ross and said it would do its best to ensure
    disabled patients were treated equally.

    Ryanair said it was disappointed the court didn’t
    establish that the British Airport Authority was responsible for
    providing wheelchair access.

    This would be in line with practise at 87 of 93 European
    airports it used and a draft European disability paper, it
    said.

    The airline said it would reduce its wheelchair levy by 50 per
    cent.

    DRC legal advisor Clair Gooding said there were 30 similar cases
    awaiting the outcome of the Ross case that it hoped could now be
    settled with airports and airlines without going to the
    court.

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