Flying easyJet isn’t exactly easy, especially if you have a disability. I’ve been reporting that fact for a few years now.
First there was the case of Philip McLoughlin, who was stranded in Lourdes because easyJet refused to fly him back home. The reason? Well, Mr. McLoughlin uses a wheelchair, and according to the gate agent easyJet “does not accept disabled travelers on their own.”
And then there was the case of Jason Roberts, who was denied boarding on his Dortmund-bound flight because he was deemed a danger to other passenger in an emergency, and because he couldn’t walk to the aircraft lavatory. And as it so happens, Mr. Roberts is also a wheelchair-user.
And then of course, there was wheelchair-user Marie-Patricia Hoarau who was denied passage on her Paris to Nice easyJet flight because easyJet deemed her a safety risk.
And after naming easyJet an Emerging Horizons “germ” twice (they’re catching up to Air France) I began to wonder when somebody of higher authority would take notice of this injustice and make an attempt to right it.
Well, that finally happened last week, when I discovered a very unlikely ally in the French Transport Ministry. Unlikely, because it’s not like their own Air France hasn’t committed the exact same transgression.
But then again, when they discovered the wheelchair-user they barred from the flight was an advisor to the French government on disability equality, they turned over a new leaf.
In any case, I’ll take advocates wherever I can find them. And in this case the French Transport Ministry is calling for severe sanctions against easyJet. According to a statement released by the ministry, “EasyJet cannot hide behind safety regulations for refusing to board passengers who have difficulty moving around.”
This came after three other wheelchair-users filed complaints against easyJet for their denied boardings. easyJet responded by saying that since European regulations require a 90-second evacuation, they were perfectly within their rights to deny passage to unaccompanied wheelchair-users. Which really doesn’t wash with me, because in Ms. Hoarau’s case she was denied passage even though another passenger volunteered to act as her attendant in case of an emergency.
It will be interesting to see how things play out. Will easyJet be barred from landing in France? Well, at this point, anything is possible. The matter is currently under investigation by DGAC, the French civil aviation authority. Time will tell.