A mother of a 15-year-old boy with autism took to Facebook to share her son's experience with Ryanair staff members at the Alicante airport in Spain, calling the incident a "disgrace."
Helen Estella wrote that her son, Leo, experienced a "meltdown," which resulted in airport staff calling four to five police officers.
Leo, who, according to Estella has “severe” autism and the mental capacity of a three-year-old, was traveling with his caretaker when he attempted to board the UK-bound flight on Saturday evening.
Estella wrote that 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," adding that Leo's caretaker did not refuse to pay the fee.
Estrella went on to claim that Ryanair staff called the police on her son, and he was surrounded by police officers, who physically touched him and his doll, which exasperated his meltdown.
"Special assistance had been requested as not all disabilities are visible but we were told no by Ryanair because Leo can walk,” Estella wrote. “He had to be then taken to the airport Doctor and medicated as he was so distressed. Ryanair off loaded the luggage and offered them no other way to get home, shrugging shoulders saying no flights til next Tuesday."
Estella went on to explain that Leo's carer, "in desperation," went to the Jet2 desk to "beg for help," and praised the way staff at Jet2 handled the situation. "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." Estrella shared photos of one Jet2 staff member, identified as Ellie, as she sat on the floor with Leo and put "his babies to bed for him" which helped to calm the teenager.
"Jet 2 I cannot [thank you] enough for getting my disabled vulnerable boy home,” the mother wrote on Facebook, “and treating him with kindness ... dignity and respect, and most of all time ... autistic children need extra processing time ... not spanish Police threatening him with injections!"
While Estella says she will not be patronizing Ryanair again, the airline claims Leo and his carer were not "denied boarding" and were not charged for their hand luggage.
Ryanair provided the following statement to Yahoo Lifestyle: "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."
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