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News & Features

Flying Experience Could Improve For Disabled Passengers

Posted in General News on Thursday, April 12th, 2018

The government is looking at ways of improving air travel for disabled passengers after the issue of customer dissatisfaction was brought to their attention by Frank Gardner of the BBC whose wheelchair was misplaced by the ground staff at Heathrow Airport. The new measures could include a limit on the amount of time that a disabled passenger is made to wait for assistance when they are boarding and disembarking the plane, and a limit on the amount of time that passengers are made to wait for their wheelchairs once the plane has landed. Other ideas that are being discussed by the government and industry bodies such as the Civil Aviation Authority are the removal of seats so that disabled passengers can sit in their wheelchairs during the flight, and the possibility of giving priority storage space to wheelchairs so that they can be returned to their owners promptly upon arrival. Aviation Minister, Baroness Sugg, commented: “We have to do everything possible to ensure passengers are put at the very heart of our aviation industry and the flying experience is a positive one for everyone boarding a plane.”

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David Smith's Gravatar
David Smith

Monday, April, 16th, 2018

Some time ago I traveled to the Isle of Man and needed to take my mobility scooter. I contacted BA and gave them all of the details inc, size, weight and information about the battery. I received a reply and was told that if I wanted to take the scooter it would have to be stored in the overhead locker but I would have to load it myself!!!! So much for BA customer service. I spoke to Johnsons Travel and they then called the airline Jet2. Both were very helpful and arranged everything without any hassle.

Rosemary Preston 's Gravatar
Rosemary Preston

Monday, April, 16th, 2018

The comment I have is that when I last travelled into Heathrow I was the last to be taken off the plane and was left sitting with my husband the help staff did not come back after taking other disabled passengers to the arrivals area, in fact we saw all of the flight crew leave the aircraft so we were there with no one to help us. After what was ages we felt that we had to try to do it ourselves very slowly it was impossible to describe the pain. I’ve never flown since.

Jonathan Abbott's Gravatar
Jonathan Abbott

Monday, April, 16th, 2018

...about time. As I tweeted to Frank at time of publication. My flight time from Lisbon back to LHR was less than the time I waited for my assistance and wheelchair upon arrival at LHR. The Airline staff TAP could not leave the aircraft until I had left the aircraft, passengers could not get onto the plane for the return back to Lisbon. Just a terrible painful experience. We try now to only travel by car to European destinations as the hassle just is not worth the hassle. Most airports are the same, wait wait wait. Be it Gatwick, Birmingham, Isle of Man, and as mentioned London Heathrow. At least in my car I can lay down in the passenger seat and we stop regularly and stay overnighters on our way to our destination. It always make a 7 day holiday into an 11 day one because of the length of travel time. But air travel, no thanks, painful and treated as 'just couldn't care less ' by the authorities. Not the 'pushing' staff they are mostly a happy bunch and try to help. No profit in disability help. Glad I travelled when younger as anywhere now is just horrible by air.

John Roberts's Gravatar
John Roberts

Monday, April, 16th, 2018

Consideration also needs to be given to disabled drop off and pickup.

Barry Smith's Gravatar
Barry Smith

Monday, April, 16th, 2018

I had to wait untill the entire passengers had left the plane then they tried to make me leave so they could clean it, but I said no I am not budging untill my weelchair is out side the door, well needless to say they were going bonkers . The staff had taken it down to the baggage place ,they finally took me down in an airport chair and I was pushed by an officer of some sort or another with the assurance that it would be there when we got there. They just wanted me off the plane so they could turn it around the only time they seemed to be concerned was when I was stopping them from doing there job. I told them that I and every one els on the plane was their job and my priority was getting my chair back in one pieace. So that was a very big black mark for Air Malta and I have never been back there.

Roger Wilson's Gravatar
Roger Wilson

Monday, April, 16th, 2018

I use a Luggie mobility scooter when travelling. Every airline has a different method of registering it for travel and handling us. In our experience BA, Flybe and Easyjet have been excellent. Brussels Air have been patchy but improved on our last trip. RyanAir is appalling. Having trouble at the moment with KLM. We travel mostly from Birmingham, which is patchy in its handling. Have used Bristol (twice), Heathrow and Liverpool once. Heathrow was the only problem airport where they could not, for some unfathomable reason, deliver the scooter from the hold to the aircraft door and I had to walk, painfully, about 100 metres. Overseas airports have been excellent, Brussels is especially good. The only on-aircraft problem has been with Brussels Air, which was only resolved when the co-pilot looked up the regulations and told the pilot he was wrong. Having said that RyanAir nearly put us on the wrong plane. You have to check, check, check again, stand up, be counted and not put up with c***.

Andy Ebben's Gravatar
Andy Ebben

Monday, April, 16th, 2018

Long overdue - 90 minutes is the longest I have had to wait to leave an aircraft and a wait of 20 - 30 minutes is regular! It isn't all bad and when it does work, it really works well. A second area that needs a serious review is compensation for damage to wheelchairs and other items. The limit on an insurance claim to an airline in no way approaches the value of many custom built chairs meaning that additional travel insurance or a claim on household items insurance is needed. In many cases, the problem is the airport's rather than the airline's but as the contract is with the airline, they pick up the claim. My chair was damaged on a Ryanair flight last October and I am still waiting for the compensation cheque to arrive. Baroness Sugg is quite right, we do have to do everything possible but airlines and airports seem to see it as a very low priority issue.

Barry Smith's Gravatar
Barry Smith

Monday, April, 16th, 2018

I did complete it but a soon as I went to post it it just went blank. It was about the rubbish treatment I had from Air Malta, never been back and never will.

C Saunders's Gravatar
C Saunders

Monday, April, 16th, 2018

These new proposed measures are to be welcomed and hopefully will be implemented as soon as possible. I have to say that Stansted Airport are very good in their Special Assistance and one does not normally experience delays. I would hope that measures will be taken for other disabled passengers besides those in their own wheelchairs, especially by airlines in such areas as seating with enough legroom

Michael Cowie 's Gravatar
Michael Cowie

Monday, April, 16th, 2018

Not before time. I've waited almost an hour to disembark, had a chair broken and a chair 'lost' at Heathrow.

Kevin Murtagh's Gravatar
Kevin Murtagh

Monday, April, 16th, 2018

Disabled access to air travel has been a problem for so long. The airline industry has stubbornly refused to properly implement inovations such as the Eagle lift and ideas around transferrable seating. What we need are soloutions to the problems of transfer / handling from wheelchair to aircraft seats, not time limits on waiting for assistance... we all know what happens to waiting time limits ! Nobody would really mind if they got on or off the plane last provided it is done in a safe, properly planned a respectful manner.

Janet Horton's Gravatar
Janet Horton

Monday, April, 16th, 2018

My worst experience, of several, happened 9 years ago. We had flown from Manchester to Munich with Luftansa without any problems, however it was a different story on the return flight. We went through check in and boarding without any problems and it was only shortly before take off that they came to me and said that the captain would not take my wheelchair on board and I had a choice of get off the plane and catch a later flight or fly without my wheelchair, as my father was very ill in hospital (he died a week later) I felt I had no choice but to fly without my wheelchair. The plane was exactly the same type and possibly the same plane we had flown out on with no problems!! During all the discussions about it I had become very upset and other passengers particularly the other disabled passengers were disgusted by the way I was treated. It also caused the flight to take off 40 minutes late. I have to say that on arrival in Manchester the staff were very helpful and loaned me a wheelchair to get home with. However this was not the end of the story. My wheelchair was taken from Munich to Frankfurt and only arrived back with me at lunchtime the next day instead of breakfast time as promised. It was put in the back of my car and the loaned wheelchair returned. It was only when we came to get it out of the car at the hospital, to visit my father, that we discovered how damaged it was and was unuseable. My husband had to find a hospital wheelchair to get me to the ward - fortunately it was a Sunday and the chairs were not in the usual demand. Luftansa had caused over £400 worth of damage to my wheelchair and the repairer felt it had been dropped from a considerable height. Whilst Luftansa paid for the repair I experienced a lot of inconvenience that week as I had to use a manual borrowed wheelchair rather than my usual electric one and I am sure you will understand this was unnecessary stress on top of knowing that my father was dying. I will never fly with Luftansa again.

Julian stevens's Gravatar
Julian stevens

Monday, April, 16th, 2018

It would be useful and preferable to have my own wheelchair on leaving the plane,which sometimes happens .On a BA flight from Sweeden this year which I had booked six months previously we had to walk to the back of the plane .I don't expect over the top special treatment but it was rather thoughtless of BA.

Graham Butler's Gravatar
Graham Butler

Monday, April, 16th, 2018

Please be aware that it isn't just wheelchair owners that have problems, some of us who have walking problems that can't stand for long periods (like at Security) and need wheelchair assistance TO the plane and FROM it also have great difficulties, especially at UK airports where we often have to wait for long periods for the help we need and we are often passed from pillar to post along the way.

Paul Smith's Gravatar
Paul Smith

Monday, April, 16th, 2018

Bristol airport you have to go in the wet and cold to get disabled bus which has hydrolic lift, takes 6 so you have to wait in cold in wheelchair On return always a wait for wheel chair if more than six waiting Depends on which person helps from Special Assistance the quality of service you get Dispite booking seat near front given one near back This year the first time I have had experienced any problem My scooter which folds into a bag ( Travelscoot )goes in the hold to come out first. I will not ever use Gatwick or Heathrow again. I always book flights as soon as they are released.

Roy Wilson's Gravatar
Roy Wilson

Monday, April, 16th, 2018

I travel abroad at least twice a year and book airport assistance as I'm in an electric wheelchair. So far I've not been let down but It's always in the back of my mind "will the wheelchair be returned to me" I'm use being either first on or last on but the wait to get off can be a pain. Any improvements would be greatly received!

David Ian Smith's Gravatar
David Ian Smith

Monday, April, 16th, 2018

I think it's about time something is done. It s a good idea to allow wheelchair users to have their own chair for comfort if nothing else.

val blake's Gravatar
val blake

Monday, April, 16th, 2018

pity it took a celeb and a newspaper to get something done. My experience at Heathrow was so appalling I have not flown since. Love the suggestion that seat could be replaced by wheelchair. However i will believe it when it happens.

Nigel Piggin's Gravatar
Nigel Piggin

Monday, April, 16th, 2018

Interesting to read this piece, it is long overdue that bona fide wheelchair patients' considerations were considered. I have flown for many years and even on long haul business class flights the experience is unsatisfactory. If you need to visit the loo, and I always try to avoid the horrible experience, the wheelchair bound passenger has to transfer on to an aisle chair and then be pushed into the loo and then be expected to use the loo, which means somehow in very confined space sitting on the toilet even to empty the bladder. Able bodied people would have no idea of the stressful implications I can assure you. It should be a human right these days to visit a proper disabled loo in their own wheelchair. I have lost my wheelchair on one occasion, and that was for a period of 2 days. Dreadful experience. Also wheelchairs are sometimes treated as baggage and delivered into the baggage claim area, and are thrown around, and the wheelchair person has to use an unsuitable type of wheelchair and hope and pray there wheelchair is in sight when they get to the baggage area. In Australia for example this always happens. I could go on, but I must say that when flying I feel more like a disabled person than doing anything else.

Sue & Byron's Gravatar
Sue & Byron

Monday, April, 16th, 2018

We are both confined to Wheelchairs’s and have travel by flying since the 70s and nothing has really improved with airlines other than getting on/off. Cannot understand why a toilet cannot be fitted to long haul flight not fare to expect anyone to fly for 12/14 hours without going to the toilet. Aisle chairs are a waist of time because most disabled people would not be able to transfer onto the toilet anyway Many thanks Sue & Byron Harvey

Barry O'Connell's Gravatar
Barry O'Connell

Monday, April, 16th, 2018

I had a simlair experience once, I had returned late at night from Majorca, my manual wheelchair come to bits, and fitted in a special wheelchair bag. When everyone had left the plane that ritual of saying goodbye to everyone as they depart before you, makes you fill a right odd ball. Well no chair bag appeared, the crew wanted to get home , and who could blame them. Finally the dreaded news sorry seems your bag has been despatch over with the luggage. So I said well what time is breakfast, to stop the heat rising, as the crew were boiling at this mistake. A airport worker finishing his duty was walking pass, happen to see all the different people trying to sort out my problem. I remained the typical cool Englishman in trouble. Well this man grab the issue by the throat, he found a wheelchair I managed to get into, with thousands of helping hands, he not only took us to the area where the bag was with my chair, but helped her assemble it, before taking us to the bus stop , for going to the car park for our car. I have no idea what would have happen, had it not been for the knight in armour. I made sure the airport bosses praised this top quailty worker.

Susan downes's Gravatar
Susan downes

Monday, April, 16th, 2018

I actually saw my wheelchair thrown out of the hold it landed on the ground and was broken and unusable this was Gatwick airport north

Christine Fleming's Gravatar
Christine Fleming

Monday, April, 16th, 2018

This is the best news I have read for a long time. As a disabled person who travels a great deal I have had the ups and the downs. Have been left waiting to disembark and met the people being loaded on to the plane ready for take off whilst I was waiting to disembark. Been nearly left at the airport on a return journey because I was being loaded last but they forgot me!!!!!! It is definitely hit and miss as to whether you get your wheelchair on leaving the plane and yet some airports can get the chair for you. The question begging to be answered is why can some do it and others refuse point blank. Another area for discussion is the seating. As a disabled person it is not always possible to manoeuvre into a seat there has to be better spacing between the rows. We should not have to pay extra to get better seating on a holiday flight, where one doesn't usually have Premium or First class.

Alan Edwards's Gravatar
Alan Edwards

Monday, April, 16th, 2018

I no longer even consider travelling by plane from a UK airport. My last experience (with Ryanair) was the last straw ! Having paid for assisted off loading from the aircraft on arrival back in the UK at Stanstead I was, as expected, the last passenger off. However, the assistance that I had already paid for never arrived, and I was told quite forcibly by the cabin staff that I would have to get off the aircraft as they were waiting to load passengers for their next flight. As there was no way that i could independently leave the plane, there was quite a stand-off ! Finally, I was carried off the aircraft by two fireman and left at the bottom of the steps while someone went to try and find a wheelchair. In the end, a very helpful taxi driver helped me to leave the airport. The idea of ever trying to reclaim the money for the assistance that I never received, never crossed my mind - it would have been an utterly futile endeavor ! As for paying for priority loading, that is an even bigger farce. In my experience, it means that you are placed at the start of the boarding queue, and given a 20 second head-start - which usually means being trampled on by those that are more ambulant than you coming up from the rear.

Colin Taylor 's Gravatar
Colin Taylor

Monday, April, 16th, 2018

The main issue is attitude ,at some airports it is quite good . However Heathrow is largely influenced by BA who are a shade indifferent to disabled travellers

Ray Spalding's Gravatar
Ray Spalding

Monday, April, 16th, 2018

I will NOT use Gatwick as they appear to me to put a bunch of untrained/poorly trained boys on Security It would seem to me that if they really are interested in providing true customer service a separate lane could be provided for disabled customers remembering that disability is not restricted to those unfortunate souls who are wheelchair bound I have multiple complex disabilities (G.P. statement) and find it extremely annoying to be pushed through the various devices after removing shoes for example when Arthritic hands make dressing difficult at any time for example How about a slogan for all British Airports Welcome to Britain where we pride ourselves on helping all of our disabled customers?

Madeline Simpson's Gravatar
Madeline Simpson

Tuesday, April, 17th, 2018

It isn’t just wheelchairs, I can only walk more than a few steps with wheeled walking frame. I have experienced a super team on an outgoing flight who placed the frame in one of the staff wardrobes, so I had it back immediately on arrival. The return flight was very different, the frame was put in the hold, there were three of us needing assistance on arrival but only one staff member and one wheelchair, we were then asked to go down a steep set of stairs naturally we all refused. We were then taken on a tortuous route to retrieve our bags. I have had mad drivers in the electric buggies, staff in the reception area for disabled passengers who almost missed my flight departure. It is always a lottery and takes the pleasure out of the journey. Please don’t forget travel experience on ferry journeys as well as a future project.

Anita Phillips 's Gravatar
Anita Phillips

Wednesday, April, 18th, 2018

The previous comments all highlight why I will not fly. The last time I flew from Stansted the treatment was appalling & staff very rude. On the return I spoke to the manager, these services being run by ISS, who assured me the next time I flew the service would be much better. I told him ‘never again’. The disabled are treated worse than our luggage. Also, many able bodied passengers make it plain they do not want us on flights, getting what they consider to be preferential treatment. It’s is all indicative of today’s selfish society.

Sue Line's Gravatar
Sue Line

Thursday, April, 19th, 2018

My experience traveling in my E-Fix chair was that we were left to our own devices, despite pre booking assistance. The help to get in and out of the seat was haphazard both Heathrow and Vancouver. If it hadn't been for help from the BA crew and taking a slide sheet and transfer board, I am not sure what would have happened. Bulkhead seats give you a little more room for transferring and there was provision for my assistance dog. Seats need to be a little wider in order to access controls or some form of extension so you can see what you are doing. I travelled to the plane in my chair and then it was put in the hold we did keep checking that it had been put in the hold. On arrival it was ready to transfer off the aisle seat