Only after she did that, in front of all the other passengers, would the Irish airline allow Frances Duff, 69, to bring her life-saving medical equipment aboard a flight home from the Spanish holiday isle of Fuertaventura in the Canary Islands.
Duff told the Irish Examiner the incident had left her “humiliated, embarrassed and stripped of all my dignity”. It had taken place before a queue of passengers waiting at Fuertaventura Airport to fly back to Dublin.
Duff has challenged Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary to meet her, look her in the eye and justify the actions of his staff.
Duff told the paper that following severe illness and major bowel surgery she must wear a colostomy bag at all times and carry special equipment with her wherever she goes. When she headed off on a family holiday she obtained a doctor’s later stating that fact, and was well treated by staff on the way out.
The return leg, however, was a different story. Duff told the paper staff in Fuertaventura refused to listen. “When my daughter Patricia, who is my carer, tried to explain to the girl at the check-in, she just dismissed her with a shrug and a wave of her hand.”
Finally, the airline relented and allowed Duff to carry her medical bag on board but only after the female check-in attendant insisted that Duff lift up her shirt and show her the colostomy bag – in full view of everyone else waiting to get on the flight.
“Embarrassed does not even come close to describing how I felt,” Duff said. “It was a complete and total loss of dignity as far as I was concerned, and I was in floods of tears at the time. It was humiliating.”
Ryanair’s customer service department sent Duff a letter saying: “We pride ourselves upon the high standards of service and professionalism provided by all our staff. I do sincerely regret this was not reflected to you on this occasion.”
The letter told Duff that if she had contacted the Special Assistance Line, it could have established if the request to bring the medical kit on board could have been approved.
Duff is having none of that. “We tried three times to contact them,” she said indignantly. “There is no email address and they just didn’t answer the phone.”
Written by : Peter Needham