Aer Lingus has been ordered to pay a paraplegic passenger €3,000 in compensation after the airline refused to seat her near the exit doors and moved her instead to an "inappropriate" seat near the back of the plane which made access to the toilets difficult.

Equality officer James Kelly also ruled that Siobhan Twomey be paid a further €1,000 for the "inconvenience and upset" caused by the airline's "inconsistent" policy of refusing to allow people with reduced mobility to sit near emergency exit rows because it could hinder an emergency evacuation.

Kelly also ordered the airline to "review" the communication procedures bet­ween its customer services department and other departments and review its training programmes for front-line staff on dealing with passengers with a disability.

Twomey said she had been in lengthy correspondence with Aer Lingus on its seating policy and was very unhappy with the outcome.

She claimed that when she approached the check-in and asked to be seated in the bulkhead seats the person at the desk said she was told not to assign her an exit-row seat.

When she boarded the plane she was seated in a wholly inappropriate seat at the back of the plane which didn't have removable armrests.

Twomey said she felt this was because she "wrote and complained to Aer Lingus about its policies and stated that she may take further action".

Aer Lingus strongly denied that the check-in staff were "primed" to target Twomey personally because she had a series of written complaints against the airline.

It said that at the time of the complaint its policy was that the exit-row seats could not be used by those with reduced mobility.

However, the airline did acknowledge that largely as a result of Twomey's complaint, that policy has been changed so that people with reduced mobility can be seated in the centre row seats near the exit doors, but not on either side.