My name is Laura Alčiauskaitė and I work as a TRIPS Project coordinator at ENIL. This October, 2021 I was planning to go to the HUMANIST conference where I was supposed to deliver a presentation about our project.  As I’m based in Lithuania, I booked the flights from Kaunas to Rhodes Island and a return trip at the end of October, 2021 provided by Ryanair airlines.

Everything was going smoothly – my friend decided to come with me, I found accessible accommodation and paid for the conference. About two weeks before my flight, I wanted to book special assistance, as, due to my impairment, I need help to get to the gates and while boarding. However, when I tried to book assistance, they said there is no possibility to provide this to me on my flight from Rhodes to Kaunas, as, according to them, all the assistants are already booked and this is a limited service.

Instead, they offered me these three options:

  1. To return the money for the flights I paid;
  2. To change the dates of the flights (it was not an option for me as the conference was on specific dates and there is only one flight per week from Rhodes to Kaunas);
  3. Offer only the assistance to the gates and no boarding, which is not an option again as I can’t walk at all so I can’t board the plane myself.

I was truly shocked. I tried to explain to Ryanair staff that none of the options they’ve proposed work for me, but the persons working at the customer service kept sending me cold and – I dare to say it- insensitive replies which almost seemed robotic.

I know that from my side I did everything right – I booked the assistance very much in advance, talked with 4 different persons from Ryanair customer services – all of them kept telling me the same thing – they cannot provide me with the assistance I need as it is overbooked and I have to choose among these three options only.

From a legal point of view, according to EU Regulation 1107/2006, Ryanair had to provide me with assistance at the airport. So, if they deny boarding because no assistance is available, this is their fault and they have to reimburse me.

In the meantime, I tried to look for alternative routes – all of them were very expensive and not convenient, and most of them were provided by the same Ryanair company. Ryanair has not offered me any collaboration with any other airline or to cover the difference of the prices if I flew with other airlines. They also refused to pay for my trip-related expenses (such as the cost of accommodation and conference fee which will be wasted, because I can’t attend the event because of them). According to them, I also have no right to claim for moral damage.

I travel quite a lot but I never had such an issue and never faced such a discriminative attitude. I find Ryanair’s acts and communication humiliating and discriminating. All my travel plans have been totally ruined because of the company and just because I’m not an able-bodied person who could board the plane herself. Therefore, I have missed an important professional engagement and experienced considerable stress dealing with poor customer service.

In this situation, Ryanair has left me no other choice but to ask for reimbursement and they have returned the money I spent for the flights, but that is it. Meanwhile, I had to put a lot of effort into getting a refund for accommodation too – luckily, there was a free cancelation policy. I have not even received a decent apology and it makes me really sad and disappointed.

Honestly, I don’t like to complain or share negative experiences with the wider audience but encouraged by my colleagues and friends, I decided to share this story with you. I feel I cannot leave it like this, as there is a high chance that other persons with disabilities might experience the same difficulties and this is not acceptable. Persons with disabilities still face a lot of environmental, psychological and social barriers while travelling and all together we should demand equal opportunities while using all means of transport. Hopefully, in the near future  this will be possible.