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Ryanair ban could leave Paralympic stars stranded

Ryanair's refusal to allow more than four wheelchair passengers to travel at any one time has left the Irish Paralympic table tennis team fearing they won't be able to attend international games this summer.

The sporting squad of up to nine hopes to travel to the French Open in Nantes from July 7 to 11, but Ryanair's direct flights to the French city will only take four disabled passengers at a time.


Mark Connolly (49), one of the Irish squad members, says the team may not be able to travel to the prestigious competition since only one flight per day goes to Nantes.

"It's really disappointing. Some of the people travelling are Paralympic medallists and they won't be able to take part.

"With most airlines, once you let them know in advance, they have no problem accommodating teams of up to 15.

"Ryanair really need to recognise this as being a bad policy on their part."

Talented athletes like Kathleen Reynolds, a double European silver medallist, and Rena Rooney, who is number 22 is the world, intend to travel to the competition.

But Ryanair insists that the group can still travel to Nantes if they split up into different groups. "The rules are the rules, and they are there for the safety of passengers of reduced mobility, and other passengers as well," said a spokesperson.

"It was made clear that team members can get different flights at the time.

"There are outbound flights on July 2, 3, 4 and 7, and returning on July 9, 10, 11."

The Irish Wheelchair Association-Sport says it is currently trying to negotiate with Ryanair to achieve a U-turn on the policy for wheelchair users.

Mark said: "When we were playing in the Welsh Open, it ended up that the team had to go down to Rosslare to get a boat because Ryanair wouldn't accommodate the team.


"There's a high calibre of people going out. All the other airlines will accommodate you, but it's only Ryanair that operates that route."

Ryanair insisted the rules are to ensure that an emergency evacuation of all passengers can be completed within regulatory requirements.

The spokesperson added: "The Irish Paralympic Team are welcome on Ryanair flights but they must observe the rules and regulations that are in place for the safety of all passengers."