EasyJet has been found guilty of discriminating against wheelchair passengers by a court in France, where lawyers described the case as a “landmark ruling”.
The court in Paris fined easyJet euros70,000 (£58,000) after finding it guilty of discrimination against three passengers at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport between November 2008 and January 2009.
All three passengers were unaccompanied wheelchair users.
EasyJet denied discrimination and expressed disappointment at the verdict. The airline is likely to appeal. However, it faces similar charges in another case due to be heard in March.
The airline’s lawyers argued the passengers were denied boarding for security reasons.
At the hearing in December, the prosecutor described easyJet as having “an aggressive commercial policy” and suggested the low-cost model of “reducing operating costs as much as possible” lay behind the charges.
A lawyer for the passengers, who also acted for the Association for the Paralysed in France, said: “The court found there was no prevailing security reason. This is an economic model that is being punished, that of low cost.”
EasyJet argued it was in compliance with European law in refusing to allow unaccompanied wheelchair passengers to board.
Regulation EC1107/2006 allows that a carrier “may refuse to embark a person with reduced mobility or request . . . [they] be accompanied by another person in order to meet applicable safety requirements”.
A lawyer for easyJet said: “The company denies any discriminatory intention. We respected European rules.” He said the carrier would decide whether to appeal after studying the detailed judgment.
The court, in the suburb of Bobigny, also ordered easyJet to pay euros2,000 (£1,666) compensation to each passenger.
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