Mother: Ryanair tried to charge autistic son carry-on fee for comfort doll
A popular, low-fare airline is under heavy criticism after it allegedly attempted to charge an autistic teenager and his caretaker a carry-on fee for the boy's comfort doll.
Helen Estella took to Facebook on Saturday to criticize Irish airline Ryanair for refusing to let her 15-year-old son Leo and his carer on board a flight to the United Kingdom from Spain until they paid a $32 carry-on fee for Leo's doll. The teen reportedly suffered a meltdown in the process, and five officers responded to the scene.
"Shame on you Ryanair you are a disgrace!!" Estella wrote. "[Leo's] carer requested special assistance but Ryanair declined it because he can walk!!"
The post prompted a wave of support from fellow Facebook users, many of whom railed against the airline for being inconsiderate.
"This is appalling I cannot believe it...could you take action against them under the disabilities act!" one person responded.
Estella's son, who she said has "the mental capacity of a 3-year-old," was purportedly taken to a doctor, who medicated him. Estella was not with her son at the time because she had undergone surgery.
"All this could have been avoided if [Ryanair wasn't] so greedy for money wanting to charge for a sodding doll!" Estella wrote. "They really need to train their useless staff about [autism]."
An hour later, the mother said that her son and his carer bought tickets from U.K.-based Jet2, which waived the carry-on fee and gave the teenager a full row of seats. Two employees of the airline's ground crew supposedly stayed with the teenager and calmed him down after he was too frightened to board the plane. Photos show a member of the flight's cabin crew playing with him as well.
"Jet2 I cannot thank you enough for getting my disabled vulnerable boy home..and treating him with kindness..dignity and respect, and most of all time," Estella posted. "Autistic children need extra processing time..not [Spanish police] threatening him with injections!"
When a Twitter user called out Ryanair for its handling of the situation, the airline somewhat apologized.
"We are to hear this," Ryanair wrote in response. "Please submit a complaint...and our customer service department to investigate."