In the case of A Customer v An Airline ADJ 00021710, the Complainant alleged under the Equal Status Act 2000 (as amended) that he was discriminated against on the disability ground in relation to a service provided by the Respondent Airline. The Complainant alleged that the airline refused to allow him to fly business class to Washington in January 2019 and he was booked into an economy seat. He claimed that the Respondent failed to provide him with reasonable accommodation pursuant to Section 4 of the Equal Status Act 2000 as amended.
The Complainant suffers from multiple sclerosis and is quadriplegic. As a result he used a special 5 point harness because of his disability as he could not sit upright independently in an aircraft seat without support.The Complainant had previously used a special harness to travel in business class on three other occasions with the airline but was informed that the airline policy had changed, and he could no longer use the harness in business class.
The Respondent denied that the Complainant was discriminated against on the disability ground. They submitted they were not happy that the harness the Complainant was using could safely interact with the business class seat and it could only be used by passengers travelling in the bulkhead seats.
The question for consideration by the Workplace Relations Commission was whether the Respondent failed to provide the Complainant with reasonable accommodation pursuant to Section 4 of the Act when he was refused permission to fly in business class.
The Workplace Relations Commission noted that Section 4 “obliges a service provider to do all that is reasonable to accommodate a person with a disability by providing special treatment or facilities. The reasonable accommodation and the special treatment the Complainant required was to travel in a reclining seat in business class and to wear the harness to keep him upright when required. For all the above reasons, I am satisfied that the Respondent failed to do all that was reasonable to provide accommodation for the Complainant in business class. While the Complainant was able to travel to Washington in an economy seat the flight was unduly difficult for him given that he could not recline the seat”.
The Complainant was awarded €10,000 compensation for a breach of the Act and the airline was ordered to put in place a reasonable accommodation to enable the Complainant to travel in business class when he next purchased business class tickets.
Given that the maximum award under the Section was €15,000, the Complainant was almost awarded the maximum due to the discriminatory behaviour of the airline.