Friday 15 December 2017

Mother taken off Ryanair flight in wheelchair row

John and Danielle McGovern with their son Logan (2). Photo: Tony Gavin
John and Danielle McGovern with their son Logan (2). Photo: Tony Gavin

Laura Lynott

A disabled mother says she felt a "criminal would be treated better" after she was forced to leave her crying toddler behind on a Ryanair flight and the airline remove her electric wheelchair from a plane.

Danielle McGovern (33), from Ballinalack, Co Westmeath, had flown without issue from Dublin to Birmingham for a weekend family break.

But when she was sitting on the return flight home to Ireland, on bank holiday Monday, the mother-of-one said she was told her electric wheelchair would have to be removed from the plane.

The mother said she was first asked by a disability assistance staff member on board what wattage her chair was, as the pilot had expressed concerns.

Ms McGovern, who has cerebral palsy, said she told the staff member that she didn't know but that her wheelchair had a safe "dry" battery.

Her husband John looked up the wattage online and the couple said they gave the information to the pilot.

"We'd never been asked what the wattage was before on a flight and the only concern usually for flights is if it's a wet or dry battery," Ms McGovern said.

Ms McGovern said that she had filled out all the appropriate paperwork to get the wheelchair on the flight but she was given an ultimatum: stay on the plane without the chair or leave the aircraft.

"It was awful," Ms McGovern said. "I've never had an experience like it ... I felt like a criminal wouldn't be treated any worse. It all ended with me having to leave the flight in tears with my little boy crying, as he saw me leaving the plane.

"My husband John's wheelchair is manual and it was allowed to stay on the plane."

Boarding

She claimed airline staff had a boarding card ready for her to get on another Ryanair flight at the airport.

"How could I not get on the flight I was on but there was a boarding card waiting for me to go on another flight?"

Ms McGovern's sister Sharon Weldon said: "The way Ryanair treated my sister was appalling. I was furious."

A Ryanair spokesman said: "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."

Irish Independent

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