Julie Newman, acting chair of the UK Disabled People’s Council, is the latest victim of sub-standard services Heathrow Airport provides disabled passengers.
On 8 June, Mrs Newman was flying home after attending a disability rights conference in Denmark. Wheelchair-bound Julie travels with her personal wheel chair.
Upon boarding her flight in Denmark, she requested her wheelchair to be delivered at the gate upon arrival. Delivery of personal mobility devices is common practice across most European airports.
When disembarking at London Heathrow Mrs Newman was told by the airline’s dispatcher that her wheelchair could not be delivered at the gate in compliance with Health and Safety regulations.
“I had to use the generic chair, which for me with my spinal and muscular condition, although it was functional, it hurt. It was very uncomfortable," Julie said. Users have been raising questions and concerns about the odd shaped wheelchairs Heathrow airport provides disabled passengers.
“I would not move until I get my own wheelchair. I cannot sit in these horrible airport wheelchairs," a wheelchair bound frequent flyer told Reduced Mobility Rights.
Disabled users most common complaints on Heathrow's wheelchairs are about their stiffness and lack of lateral support.
Julie Newman was transferred back into her personal mobility device once retrieved from the luggage carousel in the baggage reclaim hall.
“I find it appalling that I go to Europe, and I contribute a UK disabled people’s organisation’s perspective, as part of an on-going dialogue about inclusive society, and then I come back and I am treated like a piece of shit,” the equality campaigner and UKDPC acting Chair said.
British Airways apologized for the incident. However, repatriation of mobility devices falls under the responsibility of Heathrow airport owner BAA.
The Civil Aviation Authority is currently investigating BAA for a string of incidents involving a disabled child. The young traveller, who requires mobility aids to walk long distances, was left without assistance in six different occasions.
Audio and Video evidence allowed investigators to determine that, in the last incident, the child was left unassisted for over 50 minutes.
Reduced Mobility Rights forwarded Mrs Newman's case to the Civil Aviation Authority for their review.