RYANAIR has said it regrets "causing inconvenience" to a group of seriously ill children and their families after they were forced to repack their luggage because it exceeded weight limits.
However, the airline said it was "pleased" the group "avoided any excess baggage charges".
The children, who have life-threatening conditions, were recipients of National Children of Courage awards at the weekend and were on a trip to Disneyland in Paris with the Share A Dream Foundation.
But their holiday got off to a bad start when they arrived at Dublin Airport yesterday morning. Several families were told their checked-in luggage -- which contained the children's medicines and other important items -- exceeded weight limits.
The families of the seriously ill children said they were annoyed and humiliated after they were forced to unpack some of their bags and repack belongings in other bags.
One parent told how their suitcase was 6kg over the 15kg limit and they were facing a €120 excess fee. Fortunately two other parents stepped in and offered to take items, including medicines, in their luggage.
The Share A Dream Foundation, which held a special ceremony to honour the children in Limerick on Saturday night, branded the incident a "disgrace". The trip was part of the children's award win.
The awards ceremony was presented by broadcaster Miriam O'Callaghan, who described the children as "incredible".
However, Ryanair said the families were given the opportunity to repack their bags so that they could avoid paying excess baggage fees. "We sincerely regret (any) inconvenience, but are pleased that they avoided any excess bag charges.
"These families agreed to Ryanair's (very well-known) checked-in baggage policy (one checked-in bag per person of no more than 15kgs in weight) at the time of their original booking," it said in a statement.
"As their checked-in bags this morning were overweight, they were offered the opportunity to repack their bags rather than pay an excess baggage fee . . . and as a result these families avoided any excess bag fees."
However, last night the families were said to be putting the incident behind them and were making sure the children enjoyed a magical first day, soaking up the Christmas atmosphere at Disneyland.
Eight children received National Children of Courage awards at the weekend.
Among them were six-year-old Sophie Mulcahy from Rhebogue Road in Limerick, who suffers from the rare Ohdo Syndrome and has undergone six heart operations as well as battling lung and kidney failure.
Also honoured was Caitlin Doyle, also six, from Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, who has leukaemia.
Another winner was Ben Kelly (9) from Gorey, Co Wexford, who has undergone two kidney transplants in the last two months. He was diagnosed with renal failure when 10 days old and has spent a large part of his childhood on dialysis.
The Share A Dream Foundation receives no state funding and is solely reliant on the generosity of the public.
Guests who attended the awards ball helped pay for the children and their families to go on the trip to Disneyland.