Ryanair Defends Decision To Eject Blind Passengers

October 13, 2005

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Irish no-frills airline Ryanair defended its policy on disabled passengers on Thursday after it was slammed for ejecting nine blind and partially sighted passengers from one of its flights.

The passengers, from Britain, were escorted from the aircraft minutes before take-off from London's Stansted Airport as the airline's safety rules limit the number of "disabled/mobility-impaired" passengers to four per flight.

Some of them, who were on their way to Italy, waited six hours for another flight, while others were forced to sleep on the airport floor overnight, media reports said.

"It was dreadful. You felt like a criminal. We were all devastated," Beryl Barton, one of the blind passengers, was quoted as saying.

Ryanair said it was sticking to its policy, which was intended to ensure crew could attend to disabled passengers individually in the case of emergency evacuations.

Europe's largest budget carrier said the nine were asked to take a later flight because they did not, as required, notify Ryanair of their disability at the time of booking and because there were already three disabled passengers on board.

"It would have been unsafe to allow a total of 12 disabled/reduced-mobility passengers to travel on board the flight... Ryanair's number one priority at all times is the safety of its passengers and crew," it said in a statement.

However, the angry passengers rejected the safety justification, pointing out that they could walk, had partially sighted or fully sighted guides and would be able to leave an aircraft in an emergency as quickly as anyone else.

(Reuters)