France threatens easyJet sanctions over disabled passengers
French authorities may sanction budget airline easyJet "with the greatest severity" for barring unaccompanied disabled passengers from flights, the transport ministry warned on Friday.
The announcement came after three passengers complained that the carrier refused them access to flights they had bought tickets for on safety grounds because they were unaccompanied.
"EasyJet cannot hide behind safety regulations for refusing to board passengers who have difficulty moving around," the French transport ministry said in a statement.
"It must implement solutions adapted to each case, as most companies do. Otherwise it must be sanctioned with the greatest severity."
Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau ordered the civil aviation authority DGAC to investigate the passenger complaints, "so procedures can be brought against the company if failings are found, with a view to possible sanctions."
On Thursday a disabled Frenchwoman who asked to be identified only as Maryse told AFP that easyJet staff refused her access to a flight from Paris to Geneva and made her buy new tickets to fly accompanied the following day.
She said she had lodged a complaint against easyJet with the French discrimination watchdog, HALDE.
Another disabled passenger, Jean-Claude Mouton, also lodged a complaint on Wednesday, saying he had been refused a flight from Lyon to Bastia, Corsica, on the same grounds.
After being knocked back by easyJet he bought a new ticket with Air France, which allowed him to travel unaccompanied.
In a similar case reported last month, a disabled man said easyJet barred him from a flight from Biarritz to Paris because he was not accompanied.
A spokesman for easyJet, Elisabeth Le Gall, told AFP on Thursday: "European regulations oblige us to evacuate an aircraft in 90 seconds so we are authorised to ask someone to accompany (those needing assistance) to assure the safety of the person and the passengers."
© 2010 AFP