Just plane wrong: EasyJet fined £60,000 by French court for barring disabled passengers from flying

  • No-frills carrier claimed there would be a 'safety risk'
  • Dispute follows warning from French government
  • Airline accused of putting 'profits before principles'

Budget airline EasyJet has been fined £60,000 by a Paris court for barring three disabled passengers from flights.

The company claimed that the disabled passengers would pose a 'safety risk' in the air while the no-frills carrier was criticised for putting 'profits before principles.'

The court was told how three paraplegic passengers tried to board EasyJet flights at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport during 2008 and 2009.

Losers: EasyJet have been fined £60,000 by a French court for barring disabled passengers from flying with them

Losers: EasyJet have been fined £60,000 by a French court for barring disabled passengers from flying with them

But they were told on arrival at the check-in desk that they could not fly because they had not brought a carer with them.

Disabled Karine Viera said: 'EasyJet is sacrificing handicapped passengers in the name of profit.

'We were barred simply because our presence means they run up extra costs because cabin crew have to do extra work to look after us.'

The two other passengers, Laurent Giammartini and Miloudi Hafa, both said they felt 'humiliated' when they were turned away at the check-in desk.

Their lawyer Patrick de la Grange added: 'Does this mean they would also turn away someone with their leg in plaster, or a 95-year-old man, because they are also a safety risk?

'It's clearly much more about money than safety.'

EasyJet lawyer Philippe van der Meulen had earlier told the court: 'European law allows companies to refuse disabled people access onto planes if they are unacccompanied and this means there is a risk to security.

'Each year, EasyJet flies 350,000 people of reduced mobility, either when if are accompanied or if they are deemed to be able get on board alone and evacuate the plane alone in the event of an emergency.'

THE BOY WHO WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO FLY AGAIN

Declan Spencer with his mother Alexandra

Last year, Declan Spencer was barred by easyJet from his final flight abroad because of health and safety fears.

The 12-year-old (pictured, left) from Leicester has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a muscle-wasting disease meaning he cannot walk or stand.

He was told by doctors that he would have to have an operation that would leave him physically unable to move from his wheelchair meaning he would never be able to fly again.

Determined to make the most of his last trip, his mother Alexandra, 29, (pictured right) booked her family a holiday to Paphos, Cyprus.

It was only after she called the budget airline to make special arrangements for boarding the plane that staff said her son would not be able to travel.

They ruled his 200lb electric wheelchair was too heavy for baggage handlers to move – despite the fact that other airlines had managed it in the past.

Speaking at the time, Mrs Spencer, said: ‘I simply cannot believe  that easyJet is getting away with having a ludicrous, discriminatory policy like this.

‘They are refusing to carry Declan’s wheelchair on health and safety grounds to protect their staff.

'But this seems hollow when you consider every other airline is prepared to accommodate us.'

EasyJet said it was ‘extremely saddened’ at being unable to help in Declan's case but insisted it was bound by airport health and safety rules.

A spokesman said at the time: 'We regularly carry powered wheelchairs, provided they can be collapsed into separate parts of less than 60kg (130lb) each,’ it said.

The airline refunded the cost of flights and Mrs Spencer was able to book with a different carrier.


He added after the landmark ruling: 'We are disappointed and sad.

'The company denies having had any discriminatory intention whatsoever. We respected European rules.'

A spokesman for the airline declined to comment on whether they would appeal stating that their legal experts would make a decision following release of the detailed ruling.

The case comes a year after the French transport ministry warned EasyJet that their policy could face fines for not allowing unaccompanied passengers onboard.

The ministry said in a statement at the time: 'EasyJet cannot hide behind safety regulations for refusing to board passengers who have difficulty moving around.'

That warning came after wheelchair-bound French passenger Marie-Patricia Hoarau, 39, said she felt like a 'social outcast' after she was ordered off another EasyJet plane 18 months ago.

Plane wrong: Charles de Gaulle airport, Paris, where disabled passengers were turned away during 2008 and 2009 by British carrier EasyJet

Plane wrong: Charles de Gaulle airport, Paris, where disabled passengers were turned away during 2008 and 2009 by British carrier EasyJet

'She was also told she could not travel on the flight from Paris to Nice because she was a 'safety risk'.

A fellow passenger had even offered to take on the role of her 'helper', but cabin crew refused because they had not checked in together.

EasyJet's French director Francois Bacchetta said at the time: 'I understand Ms Hoarau's feeling but we must respect very strict safety regulations.

'In the event of an emergency, we need to be able to evacuate all passengers in 90 seconds.'

EasyJet is to appear in court in Paris to face further charges in a similar case in March.

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