A 15-YEAR-OLD boy with severe autism was prevented from boarding a Ryanair flight after becoming distressed when the airline tried to charge a baggage fee for his tiny comfort doll, his mother has claimed.
Leo was travelling with his carer from Alicante Airport to the UK on April 27 when the incident occurred.
His mother, Helen Estella, took to social media after the incident claiming the low-cost airline would not let them board.
Helen explained: “This is my son Leo, he is 15, he has severe autism and the mental capacity of a 3 year old.. who tonight Ryanair refused to let fly home because he was distressed when they wouldn’t let him have his doll and demanded payment for it as hand luggage.”
Ryanair currently charge passenger £25 if trying to check a piece of luggage in at the gate.
She said police were called, who then surrounded him before they touched him and “threatened him with injections”, leading to him becoming agitated and distressed.
Helen said: “If they had any autism awareness they would have know this would always escalate to a meltdown.”
The family had requested special assistance but were declined as the airline said “he can walk”.
Their luggage was then taken off the plane before they were told that there were no other flights they could board until four days later.
Helen said: “He had to be then taken to the airport Doctor and medicated as he was so distressed.
“He is now petrified and stuck in Alicante. Shame on you Ryanair you are a disgrace.”
Thankfully, Leo was able to get on a Jet2 flight later that day.
Helen praised the actions of Jet2 staff, who helped to calm Leo down and got him a full row of seats on his flight home.
Helen wrote: “In desperation his carer went to the Jet2 desk to beg for help and they were outstanding.
“Anna and Mark were outstanding ground Jet2 staff. They stayed with Leo from when they bought new tickets at the desk and have been sat on the floor with him as he was so frightened to board the plane trying to calm and reassure him.
“The other lady in the photos is Ellie and she is Jet2 cabin crew, [and she] sat on the floor calming him and she is putting his babies to bed for him and talking to him, which will keep him calm. She was amazing.
“Even the Jet2 Captain came to check on Leo’s well-being.”
Since sharing the incident online on Saturday, more than 54,000 people have shared it across social media, with over 10,000 comments.
Many slammed Ryanair, saying it was “disgusting” how the family were treated.
One person said: “What an absolute disgrace Ryanair you clearly have no morals.”
Another remarked: “Disgusting treatment by Ryanair, I would never travel with them.”
One social media said airline staff should have “basic training in understanding autism,” before calling the incident “shocking”.
Ryanair responded on Twitter, saying: “We are sorry to hear this. Please submit a complaint here contactform.ryanair.com and out customer service department to investigate.”
However, a spokesperson told the Sun Online Travel that the family were not prevented from boarding as they did not make it to the Ryanair boarding gate.
They explained: “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.”
Last year, another autistic passenger was removed from a Ryanair flight after they “didn’t believe” the 13-year-old was travelling with family.
While Ryanair said they acted accordingly to an under-16 passenger travelling by herself, her mother Michelle claimed they had correct documents proving she was travelling with her godmother.