Blame game erupts between Ryanair and French airport after passenger in wheelchair left behind

Airline and airport and locked in a war of words over who was at fault  (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Airline and airport and locked in a war of words over who was at fault (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A French airport blasted by Ryanair for an “abysmal” error that saw a passenger in a wheelchair left behind at the terminal has hit back at what it has branded “false and defamatory claims”.

Last week, the low-cost carrier blamed Bordeaux Airport, in southwestern France, for an “unacceptable” error that meant it had to turn one of its planes – which was about to depart for Edinburgh, Scotland – back from taxiing to the runway as a passenger with reduced mobility had been overlooked.

The Irish operator has accused the airport of failing to provide the passenger with the special assistance they required, and claims that crew had been “misinformed” that everyone who should be on the flight had boarded the plane, adding: “it is abysmal that Ryanair customers requiring special assistance are being let down by Bordeaux Airport and we are working with them to ensure that this does not recur.”

However, the airport denied responsibility, confirming that although the affected passenger “was assigned to an agent from a company specialised in such assistance and mandated by the airport, to facilitate her movements up to boarding”, the passenger “remained under the responsibility of the airline organising her transport”.

“The airport is simply an infrastructure operator,” it added. “When boarding for the flight to Edinburgh began, all passengers were directed towards the aircraft by Ryanair’s service provider. The passenger in the wheelchair and her companion were present in the boarding lounge at this time, visible to Ryanair staff and under their responsibility.

“When the support assistant took charge of the passenger and her companion to escort them to their aircraft, they realised that the Ryanair teams had closed the aircraft doors and the aircraft was moving.”

Bordeaux Airport admits that the staff member looking after the wheelchair-using passenger and her companion “should have arrived at the gate sooner” and that it would “take all necessary measures to limit customer waiting time.”

However, the aviation hub states that the passengers were “under the responsibility of Ryanair, who decided to depart without taking its own customers into account.

“It is highly regrettable that the airline has taken the liberty of describing a situation without speaking to us beforehand, placing the blame for a fault of its own on the airport,” it added.

Following Bordeaux Airport’s response, Ryanair toldThe Independent that it provided the facts in the previous statement, and declined to comment further.

The European Union’s Regulation (EC) No 1107/2006 states that “in order to give disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility opportunities for air travel comparable to those of other citizens, assistance to meet their particular needs should be provided at the airport as well as on board [the aircraft]”.

It also states: “As managing bodies of airports play a central role in providing services throughout their airports, they should be given this overall responsibility.”

When special assistance is needed, it is booked through the airline – with Bordeaux Airport stating on its website that it does not take direct requests – but the service is then provided by the airport.