Ryanair Refused To Fly A Passenger’s Wheelchair

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.

Ryanair-refuses-to take-electric-wheelchair
Ryanair refused to accept a wheelchair. Photo: Ryanair

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.

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“Ataxia” means a lack of order. There are several types of ataxia with many causes. Friedreich’s ataxia is one type of this condition.”

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Belen Hueso
Belen can no longer use a non-motorized wheelchair. Photo: Belen Hueso via Facebook

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.

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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.

vueling A319

Vueling had no problem taking the wheelchair. Photo: Kambui Wikimedia Commons.

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.

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Max

I do feel for her but I would have checked with the airline before booking to confirm it would be accepted. It shows how ethical Ryanair is

William

Indeed this is all made clear at the time of booking and any outsize baggage needs to be inquired about to see if it is possible. Unfortunately she has added low IQ to her unfortunate mobility impairment. I sometimes feel these situations are engineered to create a controversy.

George Vosch

Ryanair I think that should be held accountable for it’s action there is a disability act that was ignored..

Henning

When other airlines with similar aircraft had no problem transporting the wheelchair, then its no excuse for Ryanair not bringing it. They should be obligated by law to transport it, or else loose your slots at the airport.
Its just a few passengers who has this need, they already have a struggling life, no need to make it worse for them.

Gerry S

I was about to respond to this indignity.I don’t have to. You spoke for me. Well said and many thanks.

William

There are enormous costs added in terms of turn around times, additional personnel, transporting the outsize item by a system outside of the normal luggage handling system. Had she have inquired about luggage she would have learned that Ryan Air does not have the system or personnel handle outsize baggage and either rented a wheel chair or chosen a full service airline and paid the outsize baggage fee. I suspect this is a setup by an activist.

Otto Sesselfurz

If you read the article, she did warn Ryan and was then advised that her wheelchair would not fit. It might have behooved her to call before booking, but knowing myself how rude and unhelpful Ryanair agents often are, I understand if she didn’t.
Ryan’s stupid business decision to use Boeing has cost it millions already due to the Max debacle, and this case has just cost it at least one more customer.
Ryanair is one of the worst airlines aloft.

Oli

Vueling uses Airbus A320 versus Ryanair using Boeing B737 with a smaller hold. Might be the reason.

William

A320 series hold is much bigger than the B737 and in addition can handle LD3-45 and LD3-46 containers which many airlines use to preload luggage rather than direct load.

Bert Neut

Dear Belen Hueso, First of all, I admire your courage. As far as I know, for electric wheelchairs, the only (safety) restriction is the possible thermal runaway (fire hazard) of the battery. A few safety measures are in place, these measures are well known to every IATA member airline. As far as I know, there are no limited dimensions (fair use). Ryanair should respect disabled persons. In the event of a problem with the airport or inflight personnel, you should require them to contact the Complaints Resolution Officer (CRO), who must always be available and willing to deal with your… Read more »

MIKAEL BJÖRN EKBERG

The cargo hold in a B737 which Ryanair flies is not as high as in an Airbus 320 which Vueling and Iberia flies. Airbus cargo hold is higher from floor to roof which makes the dimensions of her electric wheelchair easier to handle! It is not that Ryanair does want to handle but the cargo hold is not that big and wide. Loadmaster SAS Mikael Ekberg

Gerry S

These chairs were shipped from manufacturer to sales vendor in a disassembled state. Was it not then possible to temporarily remove the offending intrusions? Her head-rest for example. One thing’s for certain. Delta airlines would have found a way.

Farhan Nazar

Oh Ryanair, how low do you actually want to go?

Otto Sesselfurz

Ryan knows no bottom. The antics of Michael O prove that. While some here will undoubtedly praise his ridiculous ideas as “good free publicity,” he is a disgraceful clod of a human, thus Ryanair suits him perfectly. The scum of airlines – Ryanair.

Stuart

they should have the good grace and compassion just to do it, even if it is inconvenient.

Matt

At first this might seem like a very inappropriate and rude reaction from Ryanair to cancel this passenger’s ticket and just another case of Ryanair’s infamous “following the rules to strictly” behaviour. Some (including this article) even go as far as suggesting the airline doesn’t want to excercise passenger’s rights, Ryanair’s ethics and so on. In fact things are very simple here: Ryanair has this rule in place for maximum allowable dimensions for wheelchairs and other items that can be loaded in aircraft’s hold. This rule is based on actual dimensions of the door of baggage compartment and if the… Read more »

Otto Sesselfurz

Does Ryanair also have rules in place calling for its entire staff to be among the rudest on the planet? Even Air Koryo treats its customers with more deference.

Matt

I agree, they are not ranking very high on customer satisfaction or staff politeness charts and there is in general a lot to dislike about Ryanair. However, as i said in this exact case there’s nothing anyone could do about, because the wheelchair wouldn’t physically fit into the cargo hold of this particular aircraft type.
Having been working as a ramp supervisor for many years, I have seen many such stories and people sometimes just don’t understand that certain rules in aviation exist either for safety reasons or as some kind of limitation which has to be followed.

Bryce

Here are the IATA guidelines for transporting electric wheelchairs:

https://www.iata.org/whatwedo/cargo/dgr/Documents/mobility-aid-guidance-document-2019-en.pdf

The airline has the prerogative to carry or not, and the passenger is advised to pre-warn the airline.

Craw

Despicable

Dennis

While I feel for the woman, I don’t see what the airline has done wrong here. Statements like they “didn’t have time so couldn’t be bothered” and “the airline didn’t want to hear it” is purely conjecture.
The airline clearly refused to transport the wheelchair because it exceeded the allowed dimensions. As a result, they cannot “just take it” because it is not compliant. There are regulations that just be adhered to.

Bryce

I agree. Everyone needs to read the small print…including (and maybe even especially) wheelchair users.

DAVID EDWARDS

Airbus cargo holds are taller than the Boeing 737 cargo holds

Anonymous

Money speaks. Don’t complain how unethical Ryanair is! Why didn’t one choose the costlier options without all the annoyance? Be real, people! Special accommodation always entails extra surcharges.

John Clements

I don’t see the problem here. She was contacted by Ryanair well in advance of travel to notify that the wheelchair was beyond the size limits they could carry.
The Boeing 737 cargo hold is significantly smaller and lower than that of the Airbus 319/320 Iberia and Vueling operate which is obviously why they had no trouble carrying it. Why would she not just accept this and involve the media? She’d already been informed, what more could they do? Tape the wheelchair to the outside of the aircraft?:) honestly, this age of self entitlement/social media pitying is really getting to me.