Easyjet denies allegations of discrimination a French Court heard in the case a disabled woman brought against the budget airline; the ruling is expected on May 4th.
Disabled passenger Marie-Patricia Hoarau, 40, sued budget airline Easyjet after being thrown off a flight from Paris to Nice because she was traveling alone.
Miss Hoarau travelled unaccompanied on her flight from Nice to Paris in March 2010. However, things went quite differently with the return flight.
"I was allowed to board the plane alone, but once I was inside, they said I could not travel because I did not have a travel companion to assist me," Miss Hoarau said. "I felt humiliated and like a pariah who has no place in society."
In a last ditch effort to help the disabled passenger, a fellow passenger stepped forward offering himself as Miss Hoarau's travel companion. However, cabin crew did not agree to the proposal, saying they had not checked in together.
"EasyJet strongly denies the allegations that have been made against the airline in this case," the airline's Communication Director Paul Moore told Reduced Mobility Rights. “EasyJet’s absolute priority is safety. In order to ensure the safety of all passengers, including those with reduced mobility, easyJet must ensure that all passengers are able to evacuate the aircraft in the event of an emergency."
“EasyJet regrets not being able to carry Mrs Hoarau but as she told easyJet once on board the aircraft that she was not able to evacuate herself the captain made the appropriate decision not to carry her. This decision fully complied with easyJet’s safety procedures which are approved by the airline’s regulator, the UK Civil Aviation Authority," Paul Moore explained.
Last Friday's Court hearing lasted 12 gruelling hours, from 2 pm until 2, 15 am on Saturday morning. A total of 10 witnesses were heard and cross-examined, including the captain and first officer of the flight, one crew member, and the passenger who offered to help Miss Hoarau.
The Good Samaritan who offered to be Miss Hoarau's travel companion is a pilot for a different airline who was off duty on the day of the incident.
“The French court explored at length the decision made on the day and took evidence from a range of easyJet staff to fully understand the context," Paul Moore said. “Evidence was provided by the pilot and other crew on the aircraft that day, as well as our Country Director for France and the airline’s Safety Director. EasyJet is satisfied that the court was provided with all the relevant evidence and it remains confident that the court will find easyJet and its pilot innocent of the charges brought."
Following a string of incidents involving disabled passengers Easyjet relaxed handling procedures for passengers with reduced mobility.
"We work hard to make travel easy and affordable for all our passengers, and can confirm that we have clarified our existing guidance to all staff for the occasions when a passenger with reduced mobility may need a travelling companion in order to minimise any misunderstanding," Graeme MacLeod, Head of Customer Operations for Easyjet, told Reduced Mobility Rights.
The French Court is expected to issue the ruling on Miss Hoarau's case on May 4th.