It appears that flying easyJet isn’t exactly that easy, especially if you’re a wheelchair-user. This same UK airline that stranded a wheeler in Lourdes earlier this year, once again earned the ire of disability advocates for denying a Paralympian passage last week. According to Jason Roberts, easyJet blocked him from traveling from Luton to Dortmund because he was deemed a danger to other passenger in an emergency, and because he couldn’t walk to the aircraft lavatory. OK, I’ll cut the airline a little slack for the first reason; after all the EU PRMs allow airlines an exemption from the rules if safety is an issue. But show me the passage that states that the inability to use on on-board toilet is considered a safety issue, and I’ll eat my hat.
Plus, to add insult to injury, this apparently wasn’t a problem until Mr. Roberts boarded the aircraft. That’s right, even though everyone — from the folks at check-in to the gate agent — knew he was a wheelchair-user, it wasn’t an issue until the captain saw him. He was then asked if he could walk to the lavatory. When Mr. Roberts replied that he wouldn’t need to use the facilities, he was given the boot.
It should also be noted that Mr. Roberts has flown all over the world on a number of budget carriers while playing wheelchair rugby, so he’s not exactly a travel newbie.
According to easyJet, the “being able to walk to the lavatory” standard was only used as a reference to determine Mr. Roberts’ need for assistance. They further emphasize that anybody who needs mobility assistance must be accompanied by an able-bodied companion. And although easyJet stands behind their policy, a spokesman admitted that Mr. Roberts should have been told he could not fly alone at check-in. The airline also apologized for any embarrassment it may have caused.
So although the carrier offers some budget airfares, it’s still not a good choice for solo wheelers. Unless of course you just want to see you name mentioned in this blog! Then, go for it!