A disabled passenger who booked a holiday to Brussels was shocked after Eurostar charged her a luggage fee for taking her wheelchair on board.
Layla Harding, who suffers from lower-leg muscle weakness, was left “upset and confused” by the experience, according to a report on Buzzfeed News. After booking a package holiday, Layla contacted Eurostar in advance to let the train operator know she would need to bring her wheelchair. In response, she was told that because she didn’t have a folding wheelchair or folding mobility scooter, she would need to pay a luggage fee.
Layla told Buzzfeed: “I was really annoyed, and I thought it must’ve been an error. They called me back and told me that after looking into it ‘this is actually our policy’, and that they would charge the same amount for bringing a bike on board or a musical instrument. I told them that this is a necessity, and it’s not like I want to take my wheelchair with me, it’s because I have to. It’s not the same as a musical instrument, you can’t really liken the two.”
After many phone calls and email exchanges with Eurostar and the holiday provider, Short Breaks, Layla was told she could avoid the fee if she sat in first class, where there were adapted spaces providing room for her wheelchair to travel in the cabin with her. However, she would have to pay for another seat and it meant she would be separated from her friends. Layla added: “I wanted to be with my party. I didn’t want to pay an extra £60 for luggage, and I also didn’t want to pay extra to be in first class, where I didn’t particularly want to be.”
After much discussion, Eurostar eventually dropped both proposed fees and allowed Layla to travel in first class at no extra cost. However, these situations are extremely stressful and unnecessary for disabled travellers. A few weeks after the incident, Eurostar announced it has made plans to ensure that bookings for reduced mobility and wheelchair passengers via travel agents will be sent to one of its specialist teams to manage. According to the follow-up report by Buzzfeed, Eurostar has also agreed to run disability awareness training for the employees who work in its contact centre.