Has a company treated you unfairly? Our consumer champion is here to help. To find out how to contact her, click here.
I booked the trip of a lifetime to Lapland with family and friends for December last year, but because of the incompetence of disability assistance at the airport, we missed our flight. My daughter is severely disabled with a life-limiting condition and this should be a very special time for us.
Upon arrival at the airport we went straight to the Ryanair check-in desks. Whilst in line my wife and our daughter were moved as their disabled buggy was causing a blockage. Nobody asked if we needed help or if we had visited the disabled assistance desk.
After checking in our luggage, my wife and I spotted the disability assistance desk at the other end of the airport and checked in. At no point were we asked if we would like a member of staff to escort us through the airport and help us through security, as we expected.
We went through the security barriers only to find our daughter’s stroller didn’t fit. This added several minutes to the security process.
We were then taken through the dedicated lane for disabled passengers. Then there was confusion about electronic devices.
I took my cell phone and put it on the tray, but when my wife asked security if she should take the phone, she said “no, that’s fine”.
So we left the electronic devices in our bags only to have the staff on the other side become disgruntled and say the devices would have to be rechecked. This added more unnecessary time to our journey.
After the security process, a very helpful member of staff started talking to our children, who told him about our special trip to Lapland. We needed to buy porridge for our disabled daughter who has special dietary requirements.
The gentleman kindly got on his radio to find out our gate number and exceeded our expectations by showing us a shortcut to get to Pret A Manger. However, he did not express any urgency about us proceeding to the gate. We felt he provided a false sense of security.
Having overheard conversations from other passengers, we had to proceed on foot. After finally reaching the gate we were absolutely shocked when Ryanair refused to allow us to board the flight.
The plane was still sitting there with both doors still open.
Amidst the hysteria of our terribly upset children, we suddenly realized that our once-in-a-lifetime trip to Lapland had come crashing down around us. It turned out that two other families were also denied permission to board the flight.
Ryanair seemed understanding after I explained that we had a passenger with a disability and described the problems we encountered at the airport.
We were taken to the Ryanair service desk, where a member of staff sought out alternative flights for a small fee. However, the only flight offered was several days later and only had three seats available.
It looks like Ryanair and Stansted are blaming each other for what went wrong here, while we’re stuck in the middle.
– JW, via email
Her daughter suffers from Coffin Siris syndrome, which causes severe physical and learning difficulties. Taking you on a long journey like this took meticulous planning and effort, which you now feel was wasted since neither of you ended up in Lapland.
I’m sorry for the way this attempted vacation turned out. I want you to know that I appreciate the extra layer of difficulty you faced, and I sympathize with you very much.
I asked Ryanair and Stansted Airport to conduct a full investigation to find out exactly what happened. Stansted immediately began combing through the CCTV footage of you and your group walking through the airport. I’m afraid the conclusion of your investigation was not what you expected.
You were advised to arrive at check-in at least two hours before departure, meaning you needed to be there no later than 4:50am. However, the footage shows that their group of eight did not arrive until 5:18 am. You waited there for about 26 minutes and were advised to proceed without a disability assistant as you were already very late.
You then got through security in 14 minutes and being sent the wrong way only added 90 seconds to your journey, according to CCTV. You then took a detour to Pret A Manger. Unfortunately, you didn’t know that passengers with special needs could bring food onboard, so you could have avoided that extra time.
You arrived at the gate 10 minutes after it closed and Stansted said your records showed you were the only passenger to miss the flight. You chose to decline the three seats on the alternative flight as it would have meant you only had a day and a half in Lapland and you didn’t think it was worth the effort.
Unfortunately, as the reason you missed your flight appears to be that you were half an hour late for check-in, I cannot ask Stansted Airport or Ryanair to compensate you.
I know you will be disappointed by this, but I suggest you discuss what happened with your travel insurance company now. Good luck to you.