Ryanair is firmly denying that asked an autistic teenager to pay up to check-in his “comfort” doll.
Helen Estella wrote on Facebook that her son Leo experienced a meltdown after Ryanair staff told him he’d have to pay to check-in his pint-sized doll or else leave it behind.
Leo is 15 years old and severely autistic; his mother claims he has the mind of a three-year old. Leo was traveling from Alicantae back home to England on Ryanair with his caregiver. Helen further claims that when staff told Leo his doll constituted an extra piece of hand baggage, he began crying and raising his voice. Police were called and tensions escalated when an officer “physically touched” the teenager. Leo was deemed not fit to fly and denied boarding. Instead, he was bought to an airport clinic for medication. Once sedated, the flight had already departed.
But Ryanair tells a very different story. In a statement to the UK Daily Mail, Ryanair argued that Helen had fabricated her story:
This teenage passenger and his carer were provided with special assistance by Alicante airport after checking in. (All such assistance in Alicante is provided by the Airport Authority).
At passport control, the teenager became agitated and aggressive towards his carer and the carer took the decision not to travel. The passengers were then taken to the airport medical assistance team where the upset passenger received sedation.
As these two passengers never arrived at the Ryanair Boarding gate, their luggage was offloaded at the request of Alicante passport control staff, who advised Ryanair’s gate agents that they had decided not to travel.
These two passengers did not arrive at the boarding gate, and therefore, they were not “denied boarding” and neither were they charged for any hand luggage.
Indeed, this story doesn’t seem to pass the smell test. I’m not talking about a 15-year-old playing with dolls as much as the odd notion that Ryanair would suggest that such a doll be considered additional carry-on baggage. I do notice in one of Helen’s pictures (below), the boy seems to have a bag full of dolls. Perhaps that was the issue? Perhaps airport ground staff performing carry-on compliance checks outside the security checkpoint deemed the bag an unauthorized additional carry-on?
In any case, Helen bought Leo a new ticket on Jet2 and he made it home safely. Flight attendants apparently took good care of him, blocking off a row of seats exclusively for him and playing dolls with him.
I bring this story to your attention for one reason: it is true that sometimes disabilities are difficult to discern. I’m not saying Ryanair or even the airport staff did anything wrong. But I am saying that just because someone looks “normal” does not mean they do not suffer from crippling disabilities. This story reminded me that there is always room to be more sensitive to others.