French court fines Easyjet over handicapped passenger

Passenger aircraft operated by Easyjet Plc and Monarch Airlines Ltd., stand at London Gatwick Airport in Crawley, UK on Jan 10, 2017.
Passenger aircraft operated by Easyjet Plc and Monarch Airlines Ltd., stand at London Gatwick Airport in Crawley, UK on Jan 10, 2017. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

BAYONNE, France (AFP) - A French court on Thursday (Jan 19) fined British low-cost airline EasyJet 60,000 euros (S$91,000) for having refused to allow a handicapped passenger to board for "security" reasons.

The criminal court in Bayonne, southern France, heard that staff at the budget carrier refused to allow Joseph Etcheveste, 55, to board an EasyJet flight in Biarritz in July 2010 because he was "unaccompanied".

"EasyJet refused to let my client board because it deemed there were security problems. They still have not been able to explain what they were," said his lawyer Anne-Marie Mendiboure.

It was not the first time Easyjet has fallen foul of French discrimination laws.

In December 2015 the company was fined 70,000 euros for refusing access to three handicapped people for the same reasons.

There were also similar rulings in the two previous years.

The airline said it had merely imposed "internal rules".

Etcheveste was an associate of former Basque separatist leader Philippe Bidart and was partially paralysed when he was shot in the spine as he was being arrested by French police in 1987.

EasyJet lawyer Maud Marian told AFP she was not surprised at the court judgement while stressing that the airline "never intended to discriminate against the plaintiff" and was unlikely to appeal the decision.