EasyJet on trial in France over disabled passengers

EasyJet goes to court in France this week to fight two separate legal challenges by disabled passengers who it refused to fly, in the latest accusations of discrimination against the budget airline.

EasyJet on trial in France over disabled passengers
EasyJet go on trial in France this week over refusin to allow disabled passengers to fly unaccompanied. Photo: Oberau-Online

The British company is being challenged over its refusal to allow two female wheelchair-users – one of whom was travelling to her son's funeral in Portugal – to fly unaccompanied.

The airline has argued that it acted for safety reasons, and in compliance with British and European laws.

The first case, to be heard Monday in the Paris appeals court, dates back to March 2010 when Marie-Patricia Hoarau boarded an EasyJet plane from Paris to the French Riviera city of Nice.

Hoarau, who has been in a wheelchair for decades following a mountain bike accident, had travelled from Nice to the French capital the previous day without any problems.

But this time round, cabin crew asked her whether she could get to an emergency exit on her own. When she said no, they told her she had to be accompanied by someone.

A pilot travelling on the same flight agreed to step in and sit next to the 39-year-old, but the airline's management said this was not adequate and ordered the captain to disembark Hoarau.

Hoarau later took another flight, saying she was "humiliated and rejected", but she decided to take EasyJet and the captain to court after contacting France's disabled association APF.

In May 2012, a French court let the captain off but fined the airline €5,000 ($6,900), and ordered it to give Hoarau an additional €5,000 in damages.

The British company appealed the verdict, saying it was in compliance with British law when it refused to let her board for security reasons.

The second case, to be heard on Thursday in the Paris suburb of Bobigny, involves another wheelchair user who was refused onto a flight from Paris because she was travelling alone.

She was forced to buy a last-minute return ticket with another company to get to her son's funeral in Portugal.

This is not the first time that EasyJet has been taken to court over allegations of discrimination.

In January last year, a French court fined the airline €70,000 for refusing to allow three wheelchair users to board its planes between November 2008 and January 2009, in what a lawyer for the plaintiffs said was a "landmark ruling".

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EasyJet to open 15 new routes from French airports

British budget airline easyJet will continue to expand its presence in France next year after announcing the launch of 15 new routes.

EasyJet to open 15 new routes from French airports
The airline, which already runs 230 routes to, from and within France, will operate seven new services from Bordeaux in the south west, four from the central city of Lyon and four from the Riviera city of Nice.
Among the new destinations will be Tel Aviv in Israel, which will be served by new flights from all three cities. EasyJet will also introduce a Lyon to Rennes service in the hope of attracting business customers. 
While France is easyJet's second biggest market after the UK, in terms of the number of routes, the company sees enormous potential.
François Baccheta, director general of easyJet France says the country is “under-served in terms of connectivity”.
“France is a key market for easyJet and we are committed to offering our French passengers a wide choice of destinations,” said Baccheta.
“We are also continuing to strengthen our regional roots with the opening of the Bordeaux base and the arrival of a new aircraft in Nice. These investments are intended to meet growing regional demand and boost the attractiveness of France and its regions internationally.”
In France the low cost market represents around 30 percent of all short and medium haul flights compared to the European average of 47 percent. So easyJet senses an opportunity to expand.
Here is a full list of the new routes:
From Bordeaux: Bastia (Corsica), Catania (Sicily), Faro (Portugal), Heraklion (Crete, Greece), Luxembourg, Tel Aviv and London Southend.
From Lyon: Corfu, (Greece) Fuertaventura (Canary islands, Spain), Rennes and Tel Aviv.
From Nice: Biarritz, Catania, Seville and Tel Aviv.
Th new routes will see easyJet increase its capacity by 7 percent in 2018 – an increase of 1.1 million passengers. The airline currently carries around 18.8 million passengers in France and has expanded rapidly in recent years.
In December last year the airline made a similar move announcing 16 new routes in 2017 following on from 36 new routes in 2016.