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Thursday, 8 July 2010

EasyJet denies handicapped man on board

(Image from Wikipedia, photographer w:es:Usuario:Barcex)

Budget airline EasyJet has once again refused to allow an unaccompanied handicapped person to fly because he presented what the company called a "security problem".

On Monday 48-year-old Joseph Etcheveste was due to take a flight from the south-western French city of Biarritz to Paris.

Etcheveste is paraplegic following a car accident and had an appointment in the French capital for a medical examination.

He had checked in his luggage and was waiting in the departure lounge but, as the national daily Libération reports, when boarding began was turned back because he was unaccompanied and as far as EasyJet was concerned presented a "security problem".

"It was humiliating," he said. "I've never been treated like that before."

"I made my booking one month in advance and told them that I was in a wheelchair, but nobody said anything," he continued.

"How come other airlines allow me to travel by myself but not EasyJet?"

The answer lies in the company's regulations which state that passengers "must be self-reliant in emergency and evacuation situations."

As the regulations explain, that means "they must be able to undo their own seat belt, put on their own oxygen mask, life jacket and make their way to the nearest emergency exit unaided."

The reason, according to EasyJet is "because our cabin crew will not be able to concentrate their efforts on individual passengers in emergency situations."

Although the director for EasyJet France, François Bacchetta, disputes Etcheveste's version of exactly what happened he confirmed that it's company policy not to allow unaccompanied handicapped passengers aboard flights.

"We make absolutely no compromise when it comes to passenger safety," he said.

"In an emergency we have an obligation to be able to evacuate all passengers within 90 seconds."

EasyJet has promised to refund Etcheveste the cost of his ticket but the airline could face a law suit from both the Association des paralysés de France and La Haute Autorité de lutte contre les discriminations et pour l'égalité (the French anti-discrimination watchdog, Halde).

Halde is currently dealing with a complaint lodged against the airline for a similar incident in March this year when 38-year-old Marie-Patricia Hoarau was removed from an EasyJet Paris-Nice flight because she was in a wheelchair and travelling alone.

The crew reportedly insisted she get off the 'plane even though a fellow passenger had volunteered to be her official companion.

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