You may have seen in the news over the last few days a story about a woman in a wheelchair in Dublin not being allowed to get on her Ryanair flight. What you may not know is the background behind that story, what things at the airport have resulted in this situation happening, and what the woman herself did wrong. I can speak on this because I am a woman in a wheelchair, Dublin is my home airport, and I have been known to fly Ryanair from time to time.
So let’s start with where she went wrong. First, she didn’t request wheelchair assistance. As a wheelchair user, you cannot assume that you can just show up to any place and you will be accommodated. This just simply isn’t true. This is especially not true when you’re at an airport. If you need special assistance you have to ask for it and do so well in advance.
Secondly, she showed up late. Not late if she were a normal passenger, but late for a wheelchair user. Wheelchair users take much longer to get on the plane than an able-bodied passenger. This is why they’re allowed on first. Even when they start their journey first they are often one of the last people on the plane. Because yes, it can take that long. Showing up late is a great way to miss your flight. As a wheelchair user, you need to know and prepare for the fact that the time your boarding pass says is not your actual boarding time. You’ll need to be there well before that.
By why does she need to ask for assistance? Well, not every plane that comes and goes from Dublin Airport actually hooks up to a gate. Some planes you actually have to walk up to outside and climb up stairs. All Ryanair flights from Dublin do this. If I had to guess I would say that it is cheaper for them and that’s why they do it. For someone able bodied it means standing out in the cold and rain for a minute or two while you climb the stairs. For a wheelchair user, you get two choices. Choices that you must make when you book your ticket.
You can be wheeled out to the bottom of the stairs and if you’re able to walk up the stairs on your own. This is something you must know you are able to do. If you can’t then you must not choose this option because at this point it is too late for the other option.
Your other option is to request assistance to the door. I’m sure you’ve seen the boxes on the back of trucks delivering food and things to the plane? Well, not all of those are for food. Sometimes they’re for people who need assistance to the door. It’s an elevator on the back of a truck. This is something that every airport I’ve been through has had. But it is provided by the airport, not the airline. When you book your flight you request this service. The airline then gets in touch with the airport and lets them know that they will need the elevator at your flight. If you DON’T request it, like this woman, then it won’t be there and could very well be in use for another plane on the other side of the airport. This isn’t something that can just be requested on the fly. Even if it could you’re talking about delaying an entire flight full of people for one person. This is something that would cost Ryanair money and has a very real chance of delaying other passengers who are going to get on other flights later in the day.
This woman didn’t follow the rules and instead of being denied her trip completely was put on a different flight to London, something Ryanair absolutely did not have to do. She then took to social media to vent her frustrations and seems to be trying to get free flights. So far she’s “only had an apology,” but Ryanair has nothing to apologize for. She didn’t follow the rules of the airport and airport travel when you’re in a wheelchair and she had to face the consequences of that. She should be grateful she made it to London in the end and use this as a learning experience.
Whenever I’m asked if Ryanair is a good airline to fly on my answer is yes, so long as you follow the rules. Even though this entire incident doesn’t actually have anything to do with the airline my answer is still the same. I have never had an issue with Ryanair because I understand the rules and I follow them. I make sure that I have done everything I need to do to make sure my needs are taken care of and that I obey all of Ryanair’s rules. I have never had an issue at the airport because I understand and follow the rules to make sure all of my needs are taken care of.
I will continue to fly Ryanair and fly out of Dublin. This woman’s story should be a cautionary tale to all who fly, able-bodied and disabled. Follow the rules, do your research, and plan ahead.