A French court has found low cost airline Easyjet guilty of discriminating against disabled passengers, slamming the budget carrier with a Euro 70,000 (GBP 54,000) fine.
Charges brought on Easyjet referred to three separate incidents involving three wheelchair bound passengers denied boarding. The three separate cases took place between 2008 and 2009.
French Prosecutor Abdelkrim Grini, was quoted by RFI saying Easyjet operates "a commercial policy which consists of squeezing running costs to the maximum and, if a discriminatory policy is necessary for that, too bad."
The prosecutor refers to “turnaround” times, the time needed by ground handlers for loading, unloading, and servicing an aircraft. Shorter turnarounds significantly increase airlines’ profits.
Easyjet countered prosecutors' thesis, saying they simply observe EU laws. "Handicapped passengers must be able to put on oxygen masks and lifebelts and fasten and unfasten seat belts, understand emergency instructions and deplane without assistance," an Easy Jet official told the court.
However, one of the plaintiffs, Mr Giammartini, testified he had travelled on some airlines without restrictions or limitations.
The court found Easyjet guilty of discriminating against disabled passengers, fining the budget airline for Euro 70,000 (GBP 54,000).
Another court case involving Easyjet will be heard in French courts starting March 2012.
Easyjet is not new to controversy involving disabled passengers. In August 2011, six elderly disabled were left at the gate at Edinburgh Airport. The UK CAA is investigating the incident. More recently, Easyjet denied boarding to a visually impaired passenger at Gatwick Airport. Mrs Joanna Jones was denied boarding because she was not in possess of printed documents related to her guide dog.