Love them or hate them, Ryanair has managed to get themselves in the news once more by not allowing a disabled woman to travel with her wheelchair. 25-year-old Spaniard, Belen Hueso was denied a boarding pass for her flight from Seville Airport (SVQ) to Valencia Airport (VLC) because her electric wheelchair would not fit in the aircraft’s hold.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Ryanair staff told the disabled passenger to “find another airline” after refusing to take the wheelchair. Reportedly, the item’s dimensions exceeded Ryanair’s cargo hold baggage policy.
Belen has Friedreich’s ataxia
At ten-years-old, Belen was diagnosed with a degenerative genetic disease called Friedreich’s ataxia. According to Healthline this is “a rare genetic disease that causes difficulty walking, a loss of sensation in the arms and legs, and impaired speech. It’s also known as spinocerebellar degeneration. The disease causes damage to parts of your brain and spinal cord and can also affect your heart.
“Ataxia” means a lack of order. There are several types of ataxia with many causes. Friedreich’s ataxia is one type of this condition.”
With no known cure and the condition only worsening with age, Belen needs to use an electric wheelchair because her arms are unable to propel a manual wheelchair. Taking advantage of Spain’s Constitution Day national holiday, Belen planned to travel from her home in Valencia to spend a few days exploring Seville.
For the outward leg of the journey, Belen bought a ticket on the AVE high-speed train but could not get a booking for the return journey on Monday the 9th of December.
Belen had to fly back to Valencia because the train was fully booked
Now searching for an alternative way to get home Belem came across a Ryanair flight for 70€. According to her account, she indicated on the company’s website that she had to travel with her electric wheelchair and bought the ticket without a problem.
After having bought the ticket, Belen filled out the form describing the weight and measurements of the mobility device and the type of battery it used. She noted the fact that it could not be folded.
Ryanair later contacted Belen to tell her that the dimensions of the chair exceeded their policy and that it could not go in the hold of the aircraft.
When Belen called the airline to plead her case, they didn’t want to hear it and suggested she find another airline. They did say that the money she had paid for the ticket would be refunded within a week.
When contacted by a local Valencia newspaper and later carried by El Pais, Belen relayed what had happened, pointing out that before her illness worsened, she had traveled many times on Ryanair with a manual folding wheelchair. She also pointed out to the newspaper that she had no problem flying with the motorized chair on Iberia.
“I have the right to travel. The electric wheelchair is the only means by which I can travel by myself.”
A Ryanair spokesperson said: “This has been resolved with the customer directly, and a full refund has been processed.
“Per our terms and conditions, the dimensions of wheelchairs when collapsed must not exceed 81cms (height), 119cms (width) and 119cms (depth). Unfortunately, in this case, the customer’s wheelchair exceeded these dimensions. We regret any inconvenience caused.”
Vueling had no problem accepting the wheelchair
Belen managed to buy a ticket with Vueling for the trip back to Valencia. While it was more expensive than Ryanair, the IAG owned airline had no trouble accepting the wheelchair.
While an airline has the right to make up its own rules on what it will take and what it will not, there are laws in place to protect and aid people with disabilities.
We all know that Ryanair is all about quick turnaround times so perhaps someone came up with the idea not to take oversized items because it slowed things down.
If Vueling and Iberia have no problem transporting Belen’s chair why couldn’t Ryanair make an exception?
What do you think? Please let us know in the comments.