Ryanair kick off disabled teen celebrating his eighteenth birthday
Noah Cunningham, from Southport, had been saving up so he could go on holiday with his brother and two carers, but the trip never ‘got off the ground’.
To celebrate his 18th birthday the teenager had planned to fly to Rome from Liverpool John Lennon Airport on April 8, but he was ordered to leave the Ryanair flight before take-off in fear his electric wheelchair would “ruin the plane”.
Noah, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, had done his preparation, he received letters from his GP and hospital stating he needed to take medical equipment – two ventilators, a suction machine and a feeding pump - on the plane.
He also sent a waiver, signed by Ryanair’s assistance team, so he didn’t have to pay for the medical equipment he was taking on the plane.
His mum, Vicki, told Liverpool Echo: "He's always wanted to go to Rome - he loves history. It was his 18th birthday. He had all this money for his birthday, he was going on this little trip that he's been planning for years stuck in lockdown and he was finally going to go.
"Lots of his friends are going on holidays now they're 18 and Noah can't do that. This was his little trip he was looking forward to and now it's been taken away in such a humiliating way."
The nightmare started at check-in where Ryanair staff were clueless to what the waiver was and forced Noah to pay an extra £70 to take his medical equipment on-board.
After spending the additional cost he was met by a member of the assistance team to take him to his seat, but things didn’t go as according to plan.
Vicki said: "When you're going on the plane that's not easy as they have to lift him because he's got two metal rods in his spine. They have to lift him in a sling into one of their chairs. They got him on the plane, sat him in his seat, and his two carers were there - they're all sat on the plane."
But once at their seats one of Noah’s carers was asked by a staff member if they could help carry his wheelchair on the plane.
"They came up and said 'we can't get the wheelchair on you're going to have to come and help,” Vicki explained.
Despite trying, the carers could not dismantle Noah’s wheelchair, eventually the pilot came up to them and said: ‘you're going to ruin my plane. You're not putting that on.'
At this stage the carers had accidently broken the wheelchair and had no way of pushing Noah.
Vicki said: "[Staff] came onboard and said [to Noah] you'll have to get off, we can't get your wheelchair on.' They had to lift him off and away in front of everyone."
Unfortunately Noah had no other option but to leave the plane and go home to spend his disappointing 18th birthday in Southport.
Vicki added: "If they'd said to us a few weeks ago the wheelchair is too high it won't get get on [we would have dealt] with that - it would have been wrong but at least we would have known and could have gone with a different airline, it wouldn't have got to that point.
"It was going to be a lad’s trip. He's got two male carers and they're like his mates. He was so looking forward to it. He's been on Google Earth planning where he can and can't go because obviously in his wheelchair there's going to be lots of places he can't go.
"I'm absolutely gutted for him. It was within reach - I think that's the worst thing, that it was within reach and it happened the way it did."
A Ryanair spokesperson said: "In order to ensure that passengers travelling with their own electric wheelchair can be accommodated, an electric mobility device form must be completed prior to their flight. Unfortunately, this passenger provided incorrect dimensions for his wheelchair, which transpired to exceed the maximum dimensions to safely load onto the aircraft.
"Regrettably, this passenger was unable to fly as the wheelchair would not safely fit into the hold. As incorrect dimensions were provided, we were unable to pre-notify this passenger that his wheelchair would not fit.”
This week Ryanair lost a passenger’s vital medication and their suitcase with all their valuables.