Budget airline easyJet has come under fire for its potentially discriminatory treatment of disabled travellers in it’s Luton Airport wheelchair policy.
The problem arises in regard to the carriage of powered wheelchairs which weigh far more than the limit imposed, for health and safety reasons, on baggage handlers.
Batteries must be detached for air travel anyway as part of the Luton Airport wheelchair policy, but even doing this leaves many powered wheelchairs still weighing 100kg or more.
The limit permitted to safeguard baggage handlers is 60kg and unless the wheelchair can be collapsed into separate parts, each of which weighs less than 60kg, the airline cannot accept the wheelchair.
As easyJet operates only short-haul routes and does not carry cargo it does not have the aircraft or machinery to get around the problem.
EasyJet has said that the CAA recognises the difficulties faced by airlines torn between trying to help disabled passengers and following health and safety rules to safeguard their workforce.
The need for co-operation between travellers and the airline is paramount and this is why easyJet ask that travellers with heavy wheelchairs contact the airline 48 hours before travelling as well as bringing the operating manual for their wheelchair with them to the airport.
One disabled traveller, however, is unimpressed. Hannah-Lou Blackall from Hull, whose wheelchair weighs 120kg, is disappointed that her trip to Krakow could be put at risk.
She is not at all happy at the thought of anyone dismantling her expensive equipment and feels that this will cause stress for herself and her travelling companions. easyJet is, however, the only airline flying direct to Krakow from the UK.
Campaign group Trailblazers is asking airlines to consider having seats which can be removed to accommodate wheelchairs which would ensure their safety and make the journey more comfortable for the disabled passenger.