EasyJet criticised over wheelchair travel allowance

Added 26/08/2010

Man in wheelchair

Wheelchair travel on flights is essential for some holidaymakers who don’t have the luxury of being able to walk unaided. One such traveller, Hannah-Lou Blackall, suffers from muscular dystrophy and must take her battery-operated wheelchair wherever she goes as she cannot walk more than a few steps unaided.

Miss Blackall’s wheelchair weighs around 140kg, more than twice the weight restriction that easyJet enforces on wheelchair travel on board their flights. Miss Blackall has successfully travelled with different airlines in her battery-operated wheelchair, but when she was due to fly from Gatwick with easyJet she was denied boarding because her wheelchair was too heavy and it flouted health and safety regulations.

EasyJet can carry powered wheelchairs provided they can be separated into lighter sections that can be safely carried. The only way that Miss Blackall’s wheelchair can be separated is if the battery is taken out, which only takes it down by 20kg to 120kg in weight. Taking her wheelchair apart would require an engineer to put it back together again, which is just not practical. EasyJet has promised to offer Miss Blackall a personal apology, and any other disabled traveller that is denied boarding.

Muscular dystrophy charity Trailblazers has found that three wheelchair users have been denied travel by easyJet in the last year, which is considered by many as discrimination against disabled travellers. Trailblazer found that Ryanair, Bmi, British Airways and Virgin do not have any weight restrictions on wheelchair travel.

A spokesman for easyJet had this to say about their weight restrictions on wheelchair travel: ‘EasyJet welcomes more than a quarter of a million passengers with reduced mobility every year and we regularly carry powered wheelchairs, provided they can be collapsed into separate parts weighing less than 60kg each. This is a necessity to protect the health and safety of the baggage handlers who have to lift the wheelchair into the aircraft.’

Air passengers that need a wheelchair to travel abroad should contact their airline before booking their flight to inform them that they will be carrying a wheelchair onboard and to find out about any specific restrictions.