“It’s not the wait, it’s the indignity”: disabled passengers talk about air travel pain | Traveling with disabilities

Passengers with disabilities or mobility impairments have a legal right to special assistance when flying, with airports and airlines required to provide free assistance and assistance.

Recent experience from disabled passengers, however, suggests that this support is not always available and can not be trusted.

“Traumatized and humiliated”

Suzanne Croft, a wheelchair user with muscular dystrophy, has said she was left “traumatized and humiliated” after special assistance was slow or non-existent at two separate UK airports.

Croft flew from Newcastle Airport to London Heathrow in June, when she said it took so long before the airport assistance staff helped her on the plane that the flight was delayed by 90 minutes.

When she landed at Heathrow, Croft said, she stayed behind and waited to get off the plane. “The crew and captain of the next plane went on board, and both captains were on the radio for special assistance, but no one was available.”

Eventually, her 66-year-old husband had to lift Croft off the seat. “It’s not the wait – I’m used to it,” she said. “It is the indignation and the humiliation.”

“I have tried to call 58 times”

Diane Bland, 66, who has caught nerves in her back and is unable to walk properly, waited for two hours at the Birmingham airport recently, only to be finally told that her £ 1300 scooter had disappeared.

“How can they lose a bright red scooter?” said Bland, a former nurse. She was told by airport staff that the scooter had disappeared after she landed at 02.40 on a Sunday morning. ‘I had to go home without it. Without that scooter, I’m tied to the house. “

Since returning home, Bland has called the airport almost 60 times. «But no one answers the phones; “One landline, two mobiles from the airport, and there is no answer from Tui,” she said.

“I have been asked to file a complaint, asked to claim my travel insurance, call an assistance department, which asks me to file a complaint and then cancels me. I have tried to call 58 times so far and have not received any answer at all. “

“Stuck on an empty plane”

The BBC’s security editor, Frank Gardner, expressed frustration at being left on a plane “again” when Heathrow Airport failed to deliver his wheelchair.

‘It has happened again. Stuck on an empty plane at Heathrow airport long after everyone else is off, Gardner tweeted from a runway at Britain’s largest airport, having arrived from Estonia via Helsinki. “‘No staff to get my wheelchair off the plane.’ I’m SO disappointed. “

It was, he said, the fourth time this had happened to him in just over four years.

“The captain took a personal interest”

Ben Furner experienced the same problem at another British airport. He was offered to use an airport wheelchair to retrieve the scooter from the luggage area, but refused, saying that a generic wheelchair would not support him in a safe and comfortable way.

It was not until the new crew boarded the plane for the next flight and found Ben still sitting there that the captain intervened and made sure that his scooter was picked up. “I was lucky because the captain took a personal and direct interest,” Furner said. “But of course it should not be necessary.”

“I had to negotiate my own way back”

Bernard Casey, a disabled passenger who has been commuting between London and Frankfurt for more than 20 years, recently traveled from London to Casablanca.

‘I was told to be three hours early at Gatwick. Together with another disabled passenger, I was picked up only 20 minutes before the plane was to depart, he said. “We went on board, thanks to the crew, just as the gates were closed. But even that was better than the return, where no one showed up to pick me up and I had to negotiate back to the train station on my own. “