Caroline Pidgeon AM, said to be extremely concerned about recent assistance failures disabled passengers experienced at London Heathrow airport.
Asked to comment about recent reports of disabled passengers complaining about assistance received at London Heathrow, the Leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group and Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee issued the following statement.
"I am extremely concerned to hear of the cases of poor treatment and sometimes blatant discrimination revealed by Reduced Mobility Rights. They very much reinforce the recent reports from Channel 4 News and the Muscular Dystrophy campaign.
"Heathrow airport is the gateway for people coming to London, if not the UK. If disabled people are facing a poor service travelling through this airport it can send out a terrible message about the status of disabled people in London and throughout the country. In the year that London hosted the most successful Paralympic Games ever to be held we should be moving forward in the delivery of accessible transport, from the tube to international air travel.
"I would advise anyone who feels they have been badly treated to not hesitate to take up the complaint with the Civil Aviation Authority. I will also be asking for briefings on the steps that both BAA and CAA intend to take to address this series of complaints about poor access."
Reduced Mobility Rights has been receiving a growing number of complaints about London Heathrow airport assistance services.
"I had a horrible experience this summer in transit through Heathrow with my daughter (severe Cerebral Palsy) to and from California to Italy, “Heather Mispagel posted on the Reduced Mobility Rights Facebook page. "No help provided (on either trip) whatsoever. None - though airport had been advised of us in advance. Fortunately I had a stroller for my daughter however I also had another child to take care of and no other adult assistance... Needless to say the trip was very stressful indeed."
"I had a dreadful 15 hour experience at Heathrow Terminal 5 in July and am still getting over it, “Teresa Clayton-Sanderson shared on our Facebook page. "No acknowledgement of my complaint from the service provider either. They seemed in chaos and severely understaffed & underequipped. I must've got a really bad day!"
The latest complaint was filed on 9 November. "From what we could see while waiting on our outward trip there endemic problems with a poorly organised service," Mr Michael Turner said last Friday. "The experience with assistance at Heathrow was particularly galling given the excellent service we experienced at Cairo and during internal flights with Egypt Air to Luxor and Aswan. If the Egyptians can get this right with far fewer resources, it’s hard to understand why we had such poor experiences at British Airways' flagship terminal."
Passengers file their complaints with Reduced Mobility Rights because they claim it is hard to find ways to complain directly with the airport.
“There are no complaint forms easily available in the airport website, and there is no complain box either inside Heathrow Terminals or in the wheel chair waiting rooms; some friends have tried to help me find it without success," disabled traveller Celia Freidenberg said.
EU legislation protecting the rights of disabled passengers, 1107/2006, states that a disabled person who considers that his rights have been violated may bring the matter to the attention of the managing body of the airport.
"EU law does not place an obligation on Heathrow airport to put a complaint link on any particular page of the website," Mark Hicks, BAA Flight Connections and PRM Manager at London Heathrow told Reduced Mobility Rights months ago.
While disabled passengers lament that either complaints can't be filed, or the ones submitted are ignored, Heathrow states passengers’ praises are sky rocketing. "Over the last year we have seen a 187% increase in compliments from our passengers," a Heathrow airport spokesperson told Reduced Mobility Rights.
About the author
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Reduced Mobility Rights, Roberto Castiglioni has extensive knowledge of PRM regulations and handling procedures, along with first-hand experience as a travelling companion and carer of a passenger with reduced mobility.
Roberto is a member of ESAAG. Chaired by the Hon. David Blunkett MP, the Easyjet Special Assistance Advisory Group, ESAAG, provides Easyjet with strategic guidance and practical advice on the evolving needs of passengers requiring special assistance. Easyjet is the largest airline in the United Kingdom by number of passengers carried.