Airline Accused Of Charging Boy With Autism To Take Comfort Doll Onboard As Hand Luggage
A mother claims her autistic son was left "petrified and distressed" after airline staff stopped him from boarding a flight home in an argument over his comfort doll.
British mum Helen Estella voiced her outrage social media on Saturday, labelling staff of budget carrier Ryan Air a "disgrace" for the way they treated her teenage boy.
Leo, 15, was travelling with his carer and had been due to fly from Alicante Airport, Spain, to the UK that evening.
Estella claims staff for the airline had tried to charge him to take his comfort doll on board, claiming it was hand luggage and needed to be paid for, and then banned him from getting on the plane after he became upset.
Ryan Air disputed this in a statement, saying they "were not ‘denied boarding’ and neither were they charged for any hand luggage."
Estella's story went viral on social media, with thousands of comments and shares of her original post.
″[H]e has had a huge autistic meltdown and they have brought 5 police to him and refused to let him on the flight", she posted on Facebook.
The mother claims police officers physically touched her son, which upset him further.
“He is now petrified and stuck in Alicante. Shame on you Ryanair you are a disgrace!! His carer requested special assistance but Ryanair declined it because he can walk,” Estella continued.
She said the flight left without both Leo and his carer, with another not scheduled until days later, so the pair were forced to buy new tickets on a separate airline, Jet2.
The good news is, Leo made it home safe and sound.
Estella praised staff at the second airline for treating her son with "kindness, dignity and respect".
Her string of Facebook posts have been shared more than 75,000 times. Many users have posted heartwarming support messages to the family.
RyanAir has since released a statement, rejecting claims the pair were stopped from boarding.
"At passport control, the teenager became agitated and aggressive towards his carer and the carer took the decision not to travel," the statement said.
“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,” it continued.
There was no end in sight to the row on Tuesday, with Leo's cousin accusing RyanAir of "lying" in its statement.
The airline has not responded to the latest allegations.