DAA, the airport operator, has been ordered to pay €1,000 in compensation for discriminating against a deaf man who missed a flight at Dublin airport during Storm Ali.
Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudication Officer Jim Dolan has ordered the DAA to pay Micheál Kelliher €1,000 compensation for discriminating against him under the Equal Status Act.
Mr Kelliher told the WRC he was waiting to board a flight to Toulouse at Dublin airport on September 19 last year.
The date coincided with Storm Ali and Mr Dolan stated that the situation at the airport was "chaotic" due to the atrocious weather conditions which severely impacted the running of the airport including significant delays for flights.
Mr Kelliher said that the monitor for any changes on the Toulouse flight was not updated "and the announcement on the gates being changed was made through the tannoy. I'm deaf and I didn't hear it. So, I missed the flight".
Mr Dolan stated that he was "satisfied that the complainant was treated differently to his fellow passengers who have no hearing impairment".
He said that while he satisfied that Mr Kelliher has been discriminated against, that there was no malice on the part of the airport operator "and it is possibly debatable whether the incident was foreseeable or otherwise".
Mr Dolan also said that to Mr Kelliher's credit, he is currently working with the DAA in order to avoid issues that may arise with passengers who have hearing impairments.
At the WRC hearing, the DAA denied any breach of the Equal Status Act but stated that it was unhappy that Mr Kelliher had such a negative experience at the airport.
After receiving an official discrimination complaint from Mr Kelliher, the DAA offered to reimburse him for the missed flight and any further expenses he incurred as a result of missing the flight - and Mr Kelliher accepted this offer and DAA has made the relevant reimbursements.
The airport operator also provided Mr Kelliher with a €200 voucher as a gesture of goodwill and proposed to Mr Kelliher that he attend the airport to provide advices and personal experience as to how it might improve its services for passengers with hearing impediments.
Mr Kelliher took up this offer and met with DAA staff members in April.
The DAA told the WRC that its practices and procedures applied at the airport are sufficiently adequate to accommodate the needs of people who have hearing impediments.
The DAA stated that Mr Kelliher told staff members at the April meeting that at the boarding area he chose not to walk to the airline monitors to check the status of his flight as there were limited number of seats available and he wanted to keep his seat.
The DAA submitted that it is very rare that any passenger could remain in his/her seat and not have to move to check monitors for up to date information.
It also told the WRC that it employs a service provider to provide passenger assistance services to passengers using the airport who may have disabilities.
The DAA stated that it would appear that Mr Kelliher did not make himself known to either to the DAA or their retained service provider in relation to his disability.
The DAA also stated that it has developed an APP which can be downloaded for free and it enables users check flight details in real times.
It said that it updates its flight information screens based on information provided by the airlines and handling agents.
It added that it cannot opine on what information was displayed on the monitors operated by the airline on the date in question.
The DAA also pointed out that the flight information screens operated by it on the date in question displayed the correct up to date information.