More MS news articles for November 2000

'Luxury' wheelchair

http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4095072,00.html

Most of us understand that if you fly with low-cost airlines you dispense with the "luxuries" of mainstream rivals. But when does a luxury become a necessity? Patience Owen of London suffers from multiple sclerosis and, although she does not use a wheelchair, she finds it difficult to walk.

So when she flew with Ryanair she asked to be conveyed to and from the plane in an airport wheelchair. To her horror she discovered that she would be charged £48 for the privilege. "No other airline charges for this," she says. "Ryanair told me it's because it's a no-frills operation. Since when has a wheelchair been a frill?"

A spokeswoman from Ryanair explained that the company wouldn't dream of charging for wheelchair users but that "if a passenger is not a wheelchair user and is therefore capable of walking to the airplane, we would expect that passenger to walk". Wheelchairs are hired from an airport contractor and the fee goes to them, not Ryanair.

Other low-cost airlines say they absorb the charges themselves, however, and the air transport users council says that Ryanair is the only company it has had complaints about on this issue.