ID refusal leaves pensioners grounded
THERE was a time when flying on domestic routes within the UK was as easy as hopping aboard a bus.Since the attacks of September 11 however, things have changed and as NICK RICHARDS and TRACEY SPARLING report, elderly passengers have been refused flights because they do not have passports or driving licences.
By Nick Richards
THERE was a time when flying on domestic routes within the UK was as easy as hopping aboard a bus.
Since the attacks of September 11 however, things have changed and as NICK RICHARDS and TRACEY SPARLING report, elderly passengers have been refused flights because they do not have passports or driving licences.
But while these pensioners believe they make unlikely terrorists Ryanair's website makes it clear safety checks on all passengers must be made.
JOAN Craig and her husband William were barred from boarding their flight to Scotland because they failed to provide the required identification.
Now the 78-year-old Ipswich woman has hit out at low cost airline Ryanair after her and her 80-year-old husband could not fly to Scotland because they only had their bus passes.
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Mr and Mrs Craig of Macauley Road, Ipswich, made the 47-mile trip to London Stansted Airport only to be told that they would be refused entry onto their flight to Prestwick in Scotland.
Despite producing an Ipswich Borough Council bus pass, which had their photographs on, and also a pension book, these were both rejected and they were told that only a passport or driver's licence would be acceptable.
The couple could not produce either of these and so were told that they would not be boarding the flight.
They were due to be spending a two-week holiday with their son and daughter-in-law, who live in Scotland. It would have been the first time that they had seen them since December last year.
Mrs Craig said: "I was absolutely disgusted. I know they have got to take precautions but this is over the top. I had some identification with me and that is all I have.
"I don't drive so I don't have a licence and I don't travel abroad so I don't have a passport."
Despite making pleas to speak to someone in charge, no one was able to help and they were forced to return to their Ipswich home. They left with their suitcases still packed and their tickets, for which they could get no refund.
Luckily, Mrs Craig's brother, who had taken them to the airport, had waited around and was able to take them straight back.
In her eyes, another unlikely terrorist threat was disabled and wheelchair-bound, 79-year-old Kathleen Hunt.
But when she arrived at the Ryan Air desk at Stansted, to board a flight to Ireland on Friday staff refused to let her board.
They said she couldn't fly without a driving licence – which she didn't possess – or a passport, which she didn't need to fly to Ireland.
Pleas to let her on the flight to Knock , near Galway fell on deaf ears.
Her furious husband James, also 79, told how their son Alan had to drive back to Stansted to fetch Mrs Hunt, who was devastated.
She had been looking forward to the rare holiday, staying with Alan's father-in-law and mother-in-law who is a nurse and able to care for her.
But instead she returned to her home in Dickens Road, Ipswich.
Mr Hunt said: "It was a chance for her to have a holiday for a few days. She had her bus pass which includes a photo, and she used that with Ryan Air in December without a problem. Now they won't allow it and I think it's disgusting. It seems to me that if you don't have a passport or driving licence with you, you can't fly anywhere even to Scotland, or Manchester!
"What's a 79-year-old woman going to do? Blow the plane up?"
At other airports travellers have been refused access to planes.
An 83-year-old woman crippled with osteoarthritis was also refused permission to board a plane from Cork to Stansted.
Officials refused to accept that due to her disability she did not possess a driving licence.
Her travel was cancelled even though she carried a government photo ID card.
n The Evening Star has made repeated attempts to talk with someone from Ryanair but no one has been available.
However, their website states their reasons for requiring photo identification for domestic flights.
It reads: "In the interests of security all passengers travelling on Ryanair are required to produce valid photo identification." It goes on to state that a passport, driving licence, international student card or national identity card are all acceptable.
It continues: "This policy is to ensure that only the passengers who are validly booked are travelling on our flights. This situation became more compelling after the terrorist attacks on September 11."
n What do you think?
Do you believe that airlines such as Ryanair are overreacting to potential terrorist acts in this country or does it make you feel safer to know that all fellow passengers on domestic flights have been checked out?
Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30, Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or fax 01473 225296, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk