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Disabled passengers are stuck for hours on landed flights over ‘outrageous incompetence’

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner was allowed to board an empty British Airways jet at Heathrow Airport on Sunday night after flying back to the UK from Estonia

Frank Gardner was stuck on a flight at Heathrow Airport
Frank Gardner was stuck on a flight at Heathrow Airport

People with disabilities have been left on empty planes in scenes one activist called “absolutely unacceptable” due to staffing issues at airports.

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner was stuck on an empty British Airways jet after it landed at Heathrow Airport in the UK from Estonia on Sunday night.

The veteran journalist, who began using a wheelchair in 2004 after being shot six times in Saudi Arabia, said it was the fourth time it had happened to him.

Last Monday, a Sunair flight from Gatwick airport was delayed two hours because a disabled person was stuck on board an aircraft.

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Mr Gardner tweeted about his experience on the plane
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Frank Gardner/Twitter)

And in the year before the pandemic began, Quamer Khaliq, 44, was brought to tears after being abandoned for two hours on a Thomas Cook Airlines flight from Orlando to Manchester Airport.

In general, airports work with special assistance services to ensure that people who need additional assistance boarding and disembarking aircraft receive it.

Mr Gardner, 60, tweeted about his experience on the British Airways flight and explained how he gave the impression that disabled passengers were not being adequately catered for.

“It has happened again. I’m stuck on an empty plane at Heathrow airport long after everyone else has left – ‘no staff to get my wheelchair off the plane,'” he wrote.

“I’m SO disappointed in @HeathrowAirport as disabled passengers seem to be the lowest priority once again.”

About 22 minutes after his original tweet, the journalist confirmed that he had made it to the terminal.

In 2018, Mr Gardner said he had been left on planes twice in six months.

He accused the airport of “casual disregard for disabled people” after staff lost his wheelchair and left him stranded on his plane for 100 minutes.

A Heathrow spokesman said: “We are very sorry for the delay Mr Gardner experienced yesterday.

“The airline’s ground handling crew was delayed in unloading the aircraft and we apologize for the inconvenience this caused.

“All organizations at the airport are preparing to meet the strong summer demand and are working hard to ensure that everyone passing through the airport can enjoy a smooth passenger experience.”

John McArdle, a disability activist, was looking forward to hosting his friend early last week, only for them to be held up by a long delay at Gatwick.

According to multiple messages played over the airport’s loudspeakers, a disabled person was stuck on the Sun Air flight – something check-in staff seemed to find “ridiculous.”

“I was just outraged,” Mr McArdle said of the situation.

“I think it is absolutely unacceptable for a disabled person to be left on a plane because of incompetence. It is a violation of the Equality Act and health and safety.

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The problem on board led to a long wait at Gatwick Airport (file photo)
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Picture:

Adam Gerrard / Daily Mirror)

“Who knows what else they may need. People with disabilities have a right to expect airlines to look after them.”

Sun-Air and Gatwick Airport have been asked to comment.

Mr Khaliq found himself in the same situation in 2019 when the special assistance he booked to help him off the plane never arrived.

The 44-year-old, who has been confined to a wheelchair since birth due to spinal muscular atrophy, remained in his seat after his Thomas Cook Airlines flight landed at Manchester Airport in Florida after a nine-hour flight from Orlando.

After all other passengers left, Mr Khaliq, his attendant and daughter remained in their seats while the cabin crew and pilot disembarked.

Cleaners came and went and the drama only ended when the newly recruited cabin crew came on board for training and he threatened to dial 999 to get the fire department to rescue him.

The new recruits’ tutor sounded the alarm, but it was another 30 minutes before a wheelchair was brought to the plane and Mr Khaliq was eventually lifted out of his seat.







Quamer Khaliq was left on board a Thomas Cook Airlines jetQuamer Khaliq was left on board a Thomas Cook Airlines jet
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Picture:

MEN)

Mr Khaliq says he suffered “stress and humiliation” during the episode.

The Ashton-under-Lyne man told the Manchester Evening News: “There was a moment I actually cried. My daughter saw me cry. I wanted this to be something special for her.

“It was one of her dreams, going to Disney World. It spoiled it a bit. She saw me a little desperate.

“When we finally got home, she went to her room and didn’t come out for quite a while.”

At the time, a spokeswoman for Thomas Cook Airlines said: “Mr. Khaliq’s experience was clearly unacceptable.

“Upon arrival in Manchester, our crew made several attempts to contact Manchester Airport’s special assistance providers and a member of the Thomas Cook Airlines team stayed with Mr Khaliq until he was met at the aircraft.

“We have asked Manchester Airport to investigate what went wrong with their provider to ensure this does not happen again.”

A Manchester Airport spokesman said: “We have raised this matter as a priority with ABM Aviation, our special assistance provider, and will be working with all parties concerned to understand what happened here and ensure all lessons are learned.” to be pulled.”

According to the UK Civil Aviation Authority, as a passenger with a disability or reduced mobility you have a legal right to assistance, commonly known as ‘special assistance’, when traveling by plane.

“This means airports and airlines must offer help and support that is free and will help ensure you have a less stressful trip,” the organization says.

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https://www.mirror.co.uk/travel/disabled-passengers-stuck-landed-flights-26976436 Disabled passengers are stuck for hours on landed flights over 'outrageous incompetence'

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