A FATHER of a young girl with a rare illness said he was “shocked” by Ryanair’s attitude to families who were travelling with sick children on a dream trip to Disneyland Paris last week.
It was meant to be the trip of a life-time, but the first steps of the journey turned out to a nightmare for parents as they tried to board a Ryanair flight.
After the National Children of Courage Awards were held in Limerick, all the children honoured at the ceremony and their families received the free trip courtesy of the local Share A Dream foundation, which makes dreams come true for sick and terminally ill children across the country.
Eight children, aged five to 12, were honoured at the ceremony. However, when they arrived at Dublin Airport to board the flight, the no-frills airline forced the families to repack their luggage, which included vital medical supplies for their children, because they exceeded weight limits.
Among those travelling was six year-old Sophie Mulcahy from Rhebogue in Limerick, who suffers from a rare condition called Ohdo Syndrome and is believed to be one of only 40 known cases in the world. She spent the first six months of her life on a ventilator in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, and has already undergone six heart operations amongst other procedures.
Her dad Liam said the incident with the airline was “embarrassing and disappointing”, and “came as a shock” to families, who had to spread the medical supplies for their seriously ill children, some of whom have terminal cancer, on the ground and try to repack them.
He said they brought extra supplies for Sophie, who has a heart condition, as it was her first time on a plane, and in case there were any delays at the airport.
“Thank God we weren’t going for a week,” he added.
In the scheme of things, he said the incident was a “minor glitch” in an otherwise “perfect” weekend.
“It was very memorable, and won’t be forgotten for a long time. The DAA [Dublin Airport Authority] were fantastic to us and we couldn’t speak highly enough about them. Sophie had a ball, and it was great to meet all the other families,” said Liam, who enjoyed the trip with his wife Stacey, and children Dion, 12, and Kayla, 4.
A spokesperson for Share a Dream branded the incident a “disgrace”, but Ryanair promised that these families would have hassle-free return flights from Paris.
Mr Mulcahy said there were no issues on the return flight to Dublin last Saturday.
The airline expressed its regret for “causing inconvenience” to the families and said it was “pleased” they had managed to avoid fees by repacking the bags. One parent was facing a €120 fee for a suitcase that was 6kg over the 15kg limit. However, the other parents allowed them to stow items in their luggage to spread the weight. Ryanair pointed out that the families agreed to Ryanair’s checked-in baggage policy. Share a Dream was not able to comment at the time of going to print, but it’s understood that they normally book with Aer Lingus.