Controversial airline Ryanair has been blasted for charging a disabled 6ft11in teenager for extra leg room because he doesn’t use a wheelchair.
Jordan Hamilton, 19, suffers from Klinefelter’s Syndrome, a genetic condition which causes his limbs to grow abnormally long.
He is registered disabled and despite being nearly 7ft tall is still growing, and could continue to do so until he is 21, doctors have told his family.
Jordan, his mother Dianah, 54, and sisters Samantha, 32, and Jenny, 33, were all due to fly from Belfast to Malaga in Spain for two days next Thursday to celebrate Jenny’s birthday.
Normally the family fly with easyJet, who are happy to oblige and let Jordan sit in the front row free of charge, Jenny said.
But when the chartered accountant phoned Ryanair on Thursday morning and explained her brother needs to sit at the front so he can fit his legs inside they insisted he pay £15 each way for the privilege.
This extra charge is nearly the same as the cost of the £20 each way flight, which discriminates against him, his family say.
The accountant, of Belfast, said: “Ryanair said it does not see that as a kind of disability because he’s not in a wheelchair.
“They told me if I wanted extra leg room I would have to pay for it. It costs £15 each way to sit on the front row and the tickets only cost £20 each.
“That means he’s effectively going to have to pay double the fare because of his disability.
“I’m incredibly upset about it. If he didn’t suffer from Klinefelter’s Syndrome he wouldn’t require this extra room.
“He’s being discriminated against, I do not think it is any different from a person in a wheelchair.
“I explained to the person on the phone that it’s not like he is fat. He hasn’t eaten himself into this state. This is not something he has done to himself.”
Jordan, who also has a learning difficulty, is registered disabled and has been supported by charity Disability Action who help him a part-time job at a petrol garage.
He lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland, with his mother and sisters.
Jenny said: “He doesn’t like attention being drawn to his disability. People are always taking the micky and saying things like ‘how’s the weather up there?’ and it really affects him.
“I’ve seen him crying trying to fit into a normal seat before. His legs are so long that they just won’t fit.
“It isn’t nice for the person in front of him either because he ends up putting his knees into the back of their chair.
“It’s never been a problem with easyJet before so I can’t understand why Ryanair are being so difficult.”
The family are now calling on Ryanair to change its minds but admit they may have little option but to pay the additional charge.
A Ryanair spokesman said: “This passenger requested to be seated in one of our reserved seat rows, and was offered this service on the same basis as all other passengers, namely upon payment of the applicable £15 fee.
“We have, as a goodwill gesture, waived the fee in this case, but he will be required to pay it, on the same basis as all other passengers, if he wishes to fly with Ryanair again.”