Man With Cerebral Palsy Thrown Off Flight Because 'Wheelchair Was Too Heavy'

A 24-year-old British man with cerebral palsy was thrown off a holiday flight because his wheelchair "was too heavy" to lift off a conveyor belt.

Brandon Aughton, 24, of West Bridgford, was due to fly with Irish airline Ryanair from East Midlands Airport in Derby to Malaga, Spain, for a holiday with his carer on October 11. Aughton's condition impacts his motor skills, including his balance, movement and coordination.

But after Aughton and his carer boarded the plane and they had left the wheelchair with Swissport, Ryanair's air cargo handling company, they decided it was too heavy to lift off the conveyor belt and into the hold. The pilot then made the decision that Aughton could not board because of flight schedules being delayed while it was trying to address the issue.

Aughton was then escorted back by airport officials and had to re-book a flight and fly out late the next day for his first holiday since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. But he was devastated that he missed out on hours of his holiday as a result of the mishap.

"I've flown twice like that before and never had any issues, I was angry," Aughton told Nottinghamshire Live.

His carer Orla Hennessey, 41, said: "Brandon got really upset at one point—it felt like no-one wanted to help us.

"It was Swissport's responsibility to put the wheelchair on the plane and tell the ground crew that it needs to go on the plane but they didn't do it and there wasn't any equipment to lift it as it's a 270kg [595lbs] chair," Hennessey added.

"There were four of them there saying they could not lift it because of health and safety and they unceremoniously booted us off the flight even though we had the letter from Ryanair to say the chair was not too heavy and it could be taken.

"The lady from Swissport said we gave them wrong information, but we told them they had the information as Ryanair said it was all fine.

"When we were going through customs, I was told I had a dangerous item in my bag, but it was an Allen key [hex key] to take apart Brandon's chair, so I queried this and was told I would be let through this time, but don't let it happen again."

"Brandon still wanted to go on holiday and a disability holiday agency managed to get flights for us the next day but we had to take a manual wheelchair - which is completely unacceptable for Brandon's needs.

"He didn't have his mobility and it's basically like taking someone's legs away from them - it was quite distressing."

A spokesperson for Swissport said: "We are saddened to hear the customer's claims about an incident at East Midlands Airport.

"We take our responsibilities towards disabled passengers extremely seriously and understand how important it is that travel for all passengers runs smoothly."

An East Midlands Airport spokesperson said that airport was "sorry to learn" of the incident.

A spokesperson for Ryanair said: "We liaised with this customer directly and this has been resolved."

Ryanair flight
A Ryanair Boeing 737-8AS aircraft flies over the tagus River as she approaches the city's international airport for landing during the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic on October 6, 2021 in Lisbon, Portugal. A 24-year-old British man with cerebral palsy was thrown off a Ryanair flight because his wheelchair “was too heavy” to lift off a conveyor belt. Horacio Villalobos/Getty