Disabled travellers speak out about being stuck on planes at Manchester Airport as charity calls for action

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Another traveller claims she had to carry her brother off a plane herself as no assistance staff arrived.

Disabled travellers have spoken about being left stranded on planes or not receiving the specialist support they had booked to help them get through Manchester Airport.

Stories were shared on social media on Thursday (14 July) after BBC journalist Frank Gardner spoke about being left on a plane and not helped to disembark on Good Morning Britain.

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One traveller said last month that a pilot had to push his wheelchair off the first ramp after waiting for half an hour for assistance with no-one turning up.

A leading disability charity said travellers not receiving the help they need at airports was too common an occurrence and said companies and organisations which failed to provide them should be penalised.

Manchester Airport said it was sorry to hear of negative experiences and providing disabled travellers with the services they deserve is a priority.

David Judd was pushed in his wheelchair off a plane by a pilot after support staff failed to arriveDavid Judd was pushed in his wheelchair off a plane by a pilot after support staff failed to arrive
David Judd was pushed in his wheelchair off a plane by a pilot after support staff failed to arrive | David Judd

‘You could tell the pilot was embarrassed and knew the situation was bad’

Actor and voiceover artist David Judd, who is from Wakefield, flew out of Manchester Airport for a holiday in Spain on 11 June and returned on a Jet2 flight seven days later.

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He uses a wheelchair when he flies and so books assistance to help him and his wife get through the airport when they leave the country and return.

David said he has flown from numerous airports and Terminal One at Manchester without issues, but when he arrived at Terminal Two last month the problems began. And things got worse when he and his wife returned from Spain a week later.

David JuddDavid Judd
David Judd | David Judd

He said: “They had my name down on the list when we arrived at the airport but we then waited half an hour until finally this guy came to help us put the suitcases through check-in and that was it. He just said which way to go and left us there. We had to go through security ourselves with no help whatsoever.

“Coming back was what really got my back up, though. They came up with my wheelchair but then not one member of staff came to help. We waited approximately 25 to 30 minutes. The pilot and airline staff were on the radio but nobody was going to come.

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“Eventually the pilot pushed us up the first ramp. You could tell he was embarrassed, he knew it was bad. I had two big bags, my wife had her handbag and other things, and we also had my prosthetic leg.

“Then we got the bus back to the car park and as I was putting the suitcases in the driver set off and I went flying and banged my head and arm on the window.

“Assistance is vital, it’s a basic requirement to help us out. I shan’t do Manchester Airport again if I can help it.”

David said he has submitted two complaints to Manchester Airport about his experience.

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What have other passengers said?

The issue of disabled passengers being left on planes due to assistance staff not turning up made waves on social media on Thursday morning after journalist Frank Gardner shared his own experiences and said it was time for change.

Anthony Hibbs wrote on Twitter that the system was currently “a lottery” and that his wife’s worst experience had been at Manchester.

Another passenger shared a shocking story of arriving at Manchester Airport this week and having to carry her brother, who uses a wheelchair, off the plane as no-one was around to help him and they were told they faced a long wait for assistance.

What have disability charities said?

Leading disability equality charity Scope said disabled passengers not receiving the support they need when travelling is far too common and it was time that those that provided a substandard service faced significant penalties.

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They also said that this had been going on far longer than this spring and summer, when airports have faced severe problems providing services due to a lack of staff.

James Taylor, director of strategy at Scope, said: “Frank Gardner is being regularly let down at UK airports, and he’s a seasoned journalist and traveller with a significant profile and platform.

“But this isn’t a new phenomenon, disabled people in this country were being frequently failed before current staff shortages.

“For a long time, we’ve been extremely concerned that airports, airlines, and train operators are not complying with the regulations.

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“This has been going on too long. The impact is often degrading, stressful and anxiety-inducing and stops some disabled people from travelling altogether.

“It’s time that the regulations had teeth and are backed up by fines and penalties.”

What has the airport said?

Referring to David’s case, a Manchester Airport spokesperson said: “We were disappointed to hear of this passenger’s experience when travelling through our airport.

“Like airports across the UK, Manchester contracts a third-party company to provide assistance , which is booked directly by the passenger with their airline.

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“We take assistance requirements very seriously and, prior to the pandemic, were rated ‘good’ in the Civil Aviation Authority’s most recent Airport Accessibility report.

“We remain confident that most people with assistance needs travelling through our airport will have a positive experience, but we recognise that this was not the case here.

“We will continue to work closely with all involved to ensure passengers requiring assistance receive the best service possible, and to understand how a repeat of this case will be avoided.”

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