Sendero Group Travel Blog

Follow Sendero travelers on their adventures using accessible GPS.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

 

Bad News EasyJet

First off, this message has nothing to do with GPS but everything to do with traveling independently.

The incident with the restaurant in Copenhagen pales in comparison with my experience this morning with EasyJet in Berlin. It takes a lot to rattle my cage but I feel a bit in shock.

Some background. It is tricky to get from Poznan Poland to Barcelona Spain with a reasonable airfare and I am literally paying for my work around. We took a 3 hour train ride to Berlin and spent the night near the Berlin-Shoenfeld airport. EasyJet had a cheap flight at 8:30 this morning to Barcelona.

I have traveled to 33 countries and 27 of those countries with a Seeing Eye dog. I have rarely been challenged with the dog by airlines and never been denied access to a flight. We did ride in the cockpit of a 727 in Argentina once because they didn't want the dog near the passengers. I didn't mind that a bit. Another time in Peru, the flight was delayed for 2 hours while they sorted things out with the U.S. embassy in Lima. After all, it was a 1 AM flight. I haven't yet taken my dog to the UK but that is even possible now if you jump through the right hoops. I even have all the documentation with me to take my dog into the UK if necessary.

So, I was stunned when they told me at the EasyJet counter that service animals are not allowed in the cabin to certain destinations. Flights to and from the UK are okay but not other flights and in particular, not Berlin to Barcelona.

I spoke to a woman at a different counter and she printed out their regulation that specifies this discrimination. She says it is posted on the web site and you have to click on the agreement before purchasing the ticket. Who ever reads all those policy statements other than the part about non-refundable fares? She said there was no way EasyJet was going to let me on the flight with my dog.

I asked what my alternatives were. She called Air Berlin and told me about their flights to Barcelona later in the day. I would have to take a taxi 40 minutes to the other Berlin airport in order to go on this flight and I'd have to fly to Palma Mallorca and then change planes to get to Barcelona. I would lose 5 hours in the process and it would cost me about $350 for the flight and taxis.

We decided that we would cut our losses if Charles went ahead on the EasyJet flight and I separated to take the Air Berlin flight.

EasyJet wasn't even apologetic about this situation. She thought because the policy was documented that I had no reason to complain or to feel discrimated against. They wouldn't even refund my EasyJet ticket let alone pay for the other flights.

I know that the other low cost European airline, Ryan Air, got into a lot of trouble over denying disabled passengers access. I don't see how EasyJet can go against international aviation acceptance of dog guides in the cabin if there is no issue of admittance in the country you are traveling to. It is a much bigger deal to take on a major airline as compared with an individual restaurant. At the same time, I have never backed down from these situations and I don't plan on getting soft now. As soon as my shock wears off and I get myself to Barcelona, we'll figure out how to start addressing EasyJet so blind people have access to low cost travel like everyone else. For now, stay clear of EasyJet and probably Ryan Air if you have a dog guide.

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