Ultra Low Cost carrier Ryanair announced changes to make replacement of lost or damaged wheelchair easier for its customers.
Traveling with a personal wheelchair is essential to passengers with reduced mobility who use their mobility device to go about their everyday life.
The travel experience rapidly turns nightmare when the wheelchair is lost or damaged before, during, or after the flight. Equality law for passengers traveling by air mandates that airports must provide immediate assistance and replacements for passengers who had their mobility device damaged. However, this is not always the case, like wheelchair user Darren Smith explains.
Last November, upon arriving at Stansted airport Darren noticed his wheelchair was badly damaged. “My chair had been so poorly handled that my left hand brake unit which is completely made of metal and secured to the frame by four bolts had been completely twisted and was now completely useless.”
Unable to operate the wheelchair he uses to go about his daily routine, Darren was directed to the damaged luggage office. “No one within the airport was in the slightest bothered with just how serious this issue was for me and all I was given was a damage report,” Darren said.
“I was without any braking system on the left side and therefore completely unsafe, they didn't care in the slightest about me or my safety,” Darren said. The man was not offered a replacement wheelchair, and had to fight for several months before finally receiving a refund for repairs.
On Thursday, Deputy Customer Service Manager Fiona Kearns announced changes that will prevent passengers flying Ryanair from having to share Darren’s experience.
“We have recently introduced another step on our process for passengers with reduced mobility,” Fiona said. “When mobility equipment is damaged in transit we have instructed airports to alert us directly to the issue. “
Currently, airlines ask passengers to contact Lost and Found desks at airports, where they are handed a form called PIR, Property Irregularity Report. Passengers are then asked to file a new claim with the airline within a pre-set time-frame, normally seven days.
“We proactively contact affected passengers to ensure that they are aware of the processes we have relating to repair and replacement and ensure that, if required, they have a replacement until their own device is operational again,” Mrs Kearns explained.
Airlines normally remain neutral at this stage, given that airports are responsible for providing wheelchair replacements. However, not all airports have the right process in place, something that, like in Darren Smith’s case, adds needless irritation to the frustration of having one’s mobility device lost or stolen.
First of its kind, Ryanair’s new procedure sets the new benchmark in customer care for passengers with reduced mobility while confirming the airline’s determination to improve the quality of services offered to passengers with reduced mobility.