Airline’s disability rule is ‘madness’

A disabled women from Derry has criticised regulations which bar her from flying unaccompanied.

Jenny Simpson, who has Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and uses a wheelchair, has been told she can’t fly on her own with Easyjet when she travels to England to spend Christmas with relatives.

Ms. Simpson says the regulation is an example of “health and safety rules gone mad”.

Ms. Simpson has been told that, if she wants to fly with Easyjet on its Belfast-Bristol service, she must be accompanied.

She told the ‘Journal’: “Effectively, this means someone has to fly to Belfast to collect me and then the two of us fly back to England. And it’s a similar situation when I have to return home - someone will have to accompany me back to Belfast before getting on the return plane to England.

“Thankfully, I’ve been able to make alternative arrangements - I plan to travel with a local couple who are by sheer coincidence travelling to England at the same time and have very kindly agreed to accompany me - but it just seems ridiculous that there’s so much red tape to go through just to make a relatively short journey.

“In a way, the regulations rob me of any independence that I have.

“In this day and age, surely the airline could make arrangements that allow me to travel on my own? You’d think they would have enough staff to deal with such a situation. I’m sure I’m not a isolated case - it probably happens on countless occasions every day of the week. It’s absolute madness.”

Easyjet, however, insists it is simply complying with safety regulations. On the airline’s website, it says unaccompanied disabled passengers must be “self-reliant in emergency and evacuation situations”.

It adds: “In reality, this means that you should be able to undo your own seatbelt, put on your own oxygen mask, lifejacket and make your own way to your nearest emergency exit unaided. This is because our cabin crew will not be able to concentrate their efforts on individual passengers in emergency situations.”

Terry McNamee, of the Foyle MS Society, has described Jenny’s situation as “disturbing”.

He said: “In Jenny’s case, it could have meant a relative flying from England to accompany her on her flight and, then, returning with her.

“This added cost and taking away the person’s independence will, of course, put a lot of disabled people off flying.”