Wheelchair passenger had to disembark from Ryanair flight

‘I was distraught, my family were distraught, the passengers on the plane were outraged’

Danielle McGovern says she received no answer when she attempted to ask Ryanair staff why she was permitted to travel on one flight but not the previous one. Photograph: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

Danielle McGovern says she received no answer when she attempted to ask Ryanair staff why she was permitted to travel on one flight but not the previous one. Photograph: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

 

A wheelchair user has talked about her distress at being separated from her small child and family when she was refused permission to fly by Ryanair on Monday.

Danielle McGovern (31) and her extended family were returning to Dublin following a weekend in Birmingham. Ms McGovern has an electric wheelchair with a dry-cell battery and her husband has a manual wheelchair. The couple have a two-year-old son. Having filled out in advance the necessary forms requesting mobility assistance, they checked in for their Ryanair flight. Their wheelchairs are normally not put in the hold until the last minute.

Ms McGovern told the Liveline programme on RTÉ Radio 1 that she and her family had experienced no difficulties when travelling over to Birmingham with Ryanair. However, she said that, after boarding the return flight, they were approached by airport assistance staff who told them the pilot “had a problem with the wheelchair and might not allow it to fly”.

The staff asked Ms McGovern whether she knew the voltage of her chair, something she says she has never been asked before. “Usually the question is if it’s a dry cell or wet cell,” she said. “You cannot travel with a wet cell battery because it’s dangerous. But a dry cell battery, once it’s switched off, is perfectly safe to travel with.”

Two options

Staff then told her the pilot would not allow the wheelchair on board. She was given two options – leave the chair behind or disembark – and felt she had no option but to get off the plane.

She was then told by ground staff that she and her wheelchair would be put on the next flight and was immediately checked in for the following flight to Dublin, also operated by Ryanair. She said she received no answer when she attempted to ask why she was permitted to travel on this flight but not the previous one.

“I was distraught, my family were distraught, the passengers on the plane were outraged,” Ms McGovern said, adding that no cabin or flight crew had approached her while she was on the first plane. “When I got back into the airport, nobody from Ryanair approached me at all to apologise or explain the situation and I haven’t heard anything from Ryanair since,” she told Liveline.

Responding to Ms McGovern’s complaint, a spokesperson for Ryanair said that “a customer on this flight from Birmingham to Dublin was asked to provide information relating to her wheelchair battery, in line with standard safety regulations, but was unable to do so in time for the flight departure. They were provided with refreshment vouchers and transferred free of charge on to the next available flight to Dublin (which departed two hours later). While we regret any inconvenience caused, the safety of our customers, people and aircraft is our number one priority.”