A passenger in a wheelchair was left in tears after she was left behind by a Ryanair flight from Dublin to London last week.
Twenty-year-old Trinity College student Niamh Herbert was en route to London with the university’s fashion society, according to Irish Times. At 13, she was diagnosed with Friedreich’s ataxia and requires a wheelchair when traveling.
In a Facebook post, Herbert explained when she arrived Feb. 17 at the boarding gate, she was told to wait “15+ minutes” so the staff could assist with her wheelchair.
However, she was later asked to climb the stairs instead of waiting "for easiness sake.”
Herbert told The Guardian she had checked-in at about 5 a.m. “with no problems.”
“Ryanair is the only airline I’ve ever flown with that puts passengers in wheelchairs on last rather than first,” she added.
A few moments later, the captain informed the boarding desk the plane would take off — “no exceptions.”
Consequently, Herbert had to say goodbye to her friends who had boarded the flight and she was left behind, “crying her eyes out.”
Ryanair has released an official statement, addressing the incident. According to the airline, Herbert arrived at the boarding gate “13 minutes” before the flight was about to take off.
“Our crew provided full assistance and as a gesture of goodwill, transferred this customer on to the next available flight, free of charge, and the customer flew to London Stansted,” the statement reads. “Had this customer booked wheelchair assistance and arrived at the boarding gate on time, there would have been no issue. Every effort was made to accommodate this customer on to their flight and they were then transferred to the next available flight.”
While Herbert says she booked a wheelchair in an initial booking, she changed her flight later. According to her, the concerned authorities should’ve passed on the information.
She also doesn’t know why the airline claims she arrived 13 minutes earlier.
“It’s their fault they neglected to carry over the details of my booking and I don’t know where they got that number of 13 from, I was definitely there a long time before,” Herbert continued. “Even so, wheelchair assistance is something that should be available around the clock.”
It’s not the first time Ryanair has been hit by accusations involving discrimination against disabled people. In 2011, the airline was sued after a man had to carry wheelchair-bound wife onto flight. Just last year, in Malta, a disabled, terminally-ill woman was left stranded in a lift that was supposed to take her up to the plane.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Rafael Marchante