bbc.co.uk
Home
Explore the BBC
You and Yours- Transcript
BBC Radio 4
Print This Page
TX: 30.01.04 COURT RULES THAT RYANAIR WAS WRONG TO CHARGE DISABLED PASSENGERS FOR PROVIDING WHEELCHAIRS

PRESENTER: JOHN WAITE

THE ATTACHED TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT. BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF MISHEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS COMPLETE ACCURACY.

WAITE
Now a story that we've covered for, must be, a couple of years here on You and Yours reached its climax this morning as you may have heard in the news in a landmark legal case. The case of Bob Ross, who's disabled and who was charged 18 by Ryanair for the use of a wheelchair to get him from the check in desk at Stansted airport to his plane. Well this morning Ryanair, Europe's biggest and most profitable low cost airline, was found to have acted unlawfully under the Disability Discrimination Act for making that 18 charge. And Bob himself was awarded 1300 in compensation. Bob Ross is with us, what's your reaction to the judgement?

ROSS
I'm very pleased John the way the judgement has gone. I felt all along that it was wrong to charge disabled passengers for the use of the wheelchair. My feeling is that that is what amounts to a surcharge on disability and that was why I challenged the charge. I'm very pleased today and I think it's a good day for passengers with disabilities.

WAITE
So what do you hope will happen now?

ROSS
I hope that Ryanair will change their policy because this morning it was announced that the policy is illegal and I would say to Ryanair change the policy.

WAITE
Louise Curtis is here too, a legal officer with the Disability Rights Commission which brought the case. Why did the DRC feel, Louise, that Bob had a strong case here?

CURTIS
Well we see that it's absolutely wrong and has clearly been wrong that disabled people shouldn't be charged extra to travel on low cost flights or any flights. So it's - as Bob said - it's a surcharge on disabled people and that's wrong. So we did try to negotiate with Ryanair but unfortunately we haven't been able to make any progress on that so this is why the case has gone to court. So we do feel Ryanair should now change their policy and absorb the cost like every other UK airline does.

WAITE
So you now have the law on your side therefore what is the significance, Louise, of Bob's win, does it set any kind of precedent?

CURTIS
Well I think it shows providers of services that a reasonable adjustment, such as a wheelchair, it may be zoos or places like that, large places should provide a free wheelchair to disabled people with mobility difficulties who need to get round and access the service.

WAITE
Well the DRC has been inviting other disabled passengers, hasn't it, who've been charged for using a wheelchair when flying with Ryanair to get in touch, what are you planning to do when you've collected other complaints?

CURTIS
Well anybody is now free, who's charged for a wheelchair at Stansted airport, to take their own claim if they wanted to or they can contact the Commission via our website or our usual numbers and we can take their details and look into taking a class action against Ryanair.

WAITE
Bad news for Ryanair I would have thought, Paul Fitzsimmons from Ryanair is here too. It is official Mr Fitzsimmons, you acted unlawfully?

FITZSIMMONS
Well I think this judgement is defective. We've no particular beef with Mr Ross or his requests when he arrived at our check in for a chair to take him from check in to the gate. What we do have a beef with is BAA and Stansted abdicating their responsibility and as Louise has stated this could move to other public buildings like zoos, undergrounds, train stations etc.

WAITE
But that's not what the judge found, he looked at Stansted's role in this and found that you were the ones who'd acted unlawfully.

FITZSIMMONS
Well first of all let me say, contrary to what Bob and Louise has said because it's misleading, Ryanair has never charged anyone for a wheelchair. If wheelchair buying passengers arrive at Ryanair they're carried absolutely free of charge and at a cost to the company. If someone arrives, as in Mr Ross's case and requests the use of a chair to move through the airport facilities they are directed to the airport service provider at Stansted airport and any transaction is made with them, we have never lifted a penny off anyone for using a wheelchair and that is our policy. Our policy won't change - the judgement this morning we think is defective, the judge himself, before he'd hardly sat down, before we'd asked for leave for appeal, had already announced that he was giving leave to appeal because of the significance of the case, he equally acknowledged that in many ways Mr Ross was an observer in this case and it really is an argument about who should provide facilities for passengers of limited mobility moving through an airport terminal and that's what's going to happen in the Court of Appeal.

WAITE
Well I mean I don't want to embarrass Bob Ross here but I - as you can see he is disabled, he's using crutches, he is not a man who has great mobility, it's very obvious he needs a wheelchair and every other airline at Stansted, Mr Fitzsimmons, pays for the cost of wheelchairs for people like Bob, why not Ryanair?

FITZSIMMONS
Well we feel fundamentally - and I could turn that round to you and say why should Stansted behave unlike the other 80 or so airports that we fly to? We fly to 84 airports in total and 80 of those airports provide this facility free of charge

WAITE
That's airports around Europe though is it or other British airports?

FITZSIMMONS
And British airports and Irish airports and French airports and German airports and Swedish airports. I equally

WAITE
But we're talking about the law in Britain - we're talking about the law in Britain, so don't let's bring in Perpignan or whatever, let's just talk about British airports, the policy there that you under the law have been told you break.

FITZSIMMONS
Well first of all if you let me answer the question that you asked - the first question. British airports are entitled to exactly the same European legislation and a European working document from the director of transport called Staff Working Paper which we issued this morning which states that it's airport facilities that should be providing facilities for passengers who require

WAITE
That's not what the judge found.

FITZSIMMONS
And that's why we think the decision is defective and that's why it's going to appeal.

WAITE
Your profits last year, Mr Fitzsimmons, were a 165 million, you're the most profitable of the low cost airlines - 18 for every wheelchair user was never going to break the bank.

FITZSIMMONS
Well that is not the point, the point, as far as we're concerned, is why should BAA and Stansted, who's the most profitable airline airport operator in the world and they're airport operators, we're an airline, we're not an airport operator, why should they be allowed to abdicate their responsibility and provide some services for disabled people, like, for example, their train link to their furthest pier, which has disabled facilities, they have escalators, they have elevators but they're picking and choosing which services they provide and they're out of step with what the European Commission is saying in its staff working paper and they're out of step with 95+% of the airports that we fly to and we don't think that they should be allowed to get away with it.

WAITE
Paul Fitzsimmons from Ryanair and Bob Ross and Louise Curtis, thank you all very much.




Back to the You and Yours homepage

The BBC is not responsible for external websites

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy