No Wheelchair Assistance - Complaint about Manchester Airport - A Spokesman Said

No Wheelchair Assistance

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Anne Welding

15/05/2017

No Wheelchair Assistance

Complaint about Manchester Airport

This is an account of the stressful and disappointing experience I had at Manchester airport, on May 10th 2017. I am disabled, suffering from Osteoarthritis, Fibromyalgia, ME/CFS and other medical conditions, so I find flying very difficult, even when it runs smoothly. I was travelling with my sister, who is able bodied, but over 60 years of age. She booked the holiday for a treat for my birthday & had booked wheelchair assistance for me, on both the outward and inward journeys to and from Ibiza. I took my mobility scooter with me. I have been away on holiday on several previous occasions, flying to and from Manchester, so I am well aware of the procedure, when wheelchair assistance has been requested. The outward journey ran smoothly, we got all the assistance , I needed and expected, (although it took them a while to locate my scooter at Ibiza airport). However, on out return journey, things did NOT go to plan and the whole experience completely ruined my holiday. The flight from Ibiza MT1201, was delayed for around an hour. During the flight, an elderly man was taken ill, so when we arrived at Manchester, all passengers were asked to remain seated until paramedics had assessed the situation etc. Eventually the rest of the passengers were allowed to disembark, but as usual, those of us requiring wheelchair assistance were asked to wait. There were 5 of us. We waited, and waited and waited...... the emergency services had requested a carry on/off chair for their patient and when we saw the lady with the high viz jacket, bringing that one particular wheelchair we felt hopeful, but she only had that one. One member of cabin staff had phoned through and requested the assistance for 5 people. The lady said she was sorry but she had only been asked to bring that one, for the poorly man. She said she would try & find wheelchairs for the rest of us. Eventually just one arrived, which was taken by another passenger, leaving 4 of us still on the plane. 3 of those people decided they could walk, with their sticks, but there is no way I can walk so far. By this time the cleaners had arrived and were busy getting the place ready for the next flight. Only one member of the cabin crew remained and she was anxious to get the situation sorted. The paramedics were still on the plane with their patient. Eventually a wheelchair was found, around 30 minutes later, but as there were no wheelchair assistant personnel available, my sister was asked to push it (this wasn't a problem). By the time we reached the baggage collection area, it was totally deserted! On previous occasions the wheelchair assistance people have found my scooter (or wheelchair) and brought it to me, but there wasn't a soul around the baggage area to ask! Our 2 suitcases were the only ones left on the carousel. Everyone else had collected their baggage and gone, which was rather disconcerting. There was a member of the cabin crew helping the wife of the gentleman who had been taken ill to collect her cases, but when we asked her for help, she said it wasn't her job (to be fair, she was dealing with an e emergency, we asked her because she was the only member of airport staff around) My sister went off to look for help, leaving me with all our luggage. She was advised to go to the Thomas Cook desk in the baggage area, which is at the opposite end of the baggage area from where we were, so just getting there was VERY difficult, with 2 suitcases, a wheelchair and hand luggage. I had to sit in the wheelchair with one bag on my knee, pushing a large suitcase. That was agony for me to do, but there seemed like no option. The second hand luggage was hung over the wheelchair handles and my sister was trying to push me and drag the 2nd large case behind her. We are both in our 60s so it was very difficult and for me, it was painful and distressing. (Uunfortunately the situation brings back memories of my first encounter with wheelchair assistance, or lack of, over 12 years ago. I thought things had changed after my complaints all those years ago ) The girl at the Thomas Cook desk explained that the additional assistance was nothing to do with her, as she dealt with misplaced luggage etc, however she did agree to trying to locate the whereabouts of my scooter, which was very helpful, but despite her best efforts she couldn't find my mobility scooter. She made several phone calls & at one point she was told it definitely wasn't on the plane, claiming it had not been loaded onto our flight! One of the people she spoke to actually 'accused' us of "walking past" the wheelchair assistance as we were leaving! This was absolutely impossible, as I did not get up from my seat on the aircraft until assistance came for me. The air hostess could confirm that if asked, but I didn't take note of her name, at the time. This all made us feel very angry, how on earth could that happen? I have flown many times before and I felt insulted by that remark. I don't know exactly who said it. I had given my scooter to a member of staff ,at the door of the aircraft ,in Ibiza and we were pretty sure it HAD been put on the plane, even though we had not actually seen it! The lady at the desk was also convinced it would be on the flight, so she asked them to look again. By this time I was in a state of panic, thinking my scooter might still be in Ibiza, or on its way to the plane's next destination. My scooter is my lifeline and life would be unbearable without it. I knew I had appointments during the next week, so I needed it. Eventually it WAS found, just as we had all suspected, it was still on the aircraft. The man who brought it made no apology. He also refused to give us more assistance. While all this was happening, the lady behind the desk said she had seen several members of the assistance team walking through the area and were clearly oblivious to our situation. Needless to say this whole experience has put a dampener on the holiday, in fact, it was completely ruined for me. This is the sort of thing I get very stressed about before I go away on holiday, because of the difficult experiences I have had in the past, the first one being 12 or 13 years ago, the first time I had flown, since I became ill. On that occasion, we arrived at Manchester Airport on the train and the porter pushed my wheelchair to the check-in desk. On the return journey the wheelchair assistance man abandoned us at the bagge reclaim area. He said he wasn't allowed to take me to the station. When I complained, it turned out that there was an "unwritten agreement" with the railway staff, they take passengers from the train to the check in & on the way back the assistance were supposed to take me from baggage to the station. At the time I contacted a whole host of people I thought ought to be made aware of my difficulties, bearing in mind the Disability Discrimination Act had recently been passed. Until this last experience I honestly thought the way disabled passengers were treated had improved vastly. I am making this complaint to everyone involved, partly because if people like myself, don't share their experiences, the people who organise these things will not realise there is a problem. I will not let it put me off flying again, but I just wish I could always receive the level of assistance I need and am promised. I keep telling people things have got better for disabled people travelling ....... they have in some respects, but sadly the system completely failed me on this occasion. Type a message... Sent from my iPad

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