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06th Jun 2022

Gatwick apologises for leaving disabled customer on plane for an hour and a half

Danny Jones

Gatwick apologises to disabled passenger left on plane for over an hour

Many others have come forward regarding poor accessibility treatment in the last month alone

Gatwick Airport has issued an apology after a disabled passenger was left on one of their planes for more than an hour and a half after landing.

45-year-old Victoria Brignell, who is paralysed from the neck down, said she was initially told it would take as long as 50 minutes to help her disembark the aircraft but was still on board after more than an hour had already elapsed.

Friend, Observer columnist and BBC Radio 4 presenter, Sonia Sodha – who was alongside Brignell during the incident – decided to tweet the airport, calling the treatment “unacceptable”, a statement which the airport recognised after another friend messaged about Brignell’s experience.

Brignell herself told the BBC, “I booked the help three months in advance, I reminded them two weeks ago and still I didn’t get the service that I should expect to have.

Following media attention in the wake of Sodha’s tweet, politician and former Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson detailed a similar personal experience: “I was flying to Berlin, the plane was two and a half hours late, but after waiting just over half an hour on board they couldn’t give me any clear indication of when the assistance was going to come.

She added: “My chair was at the gate, so I decided to get on the floor and pull myself off the plane.”

After another friend tweeted the airport looking for assistance, Baroness Grey-Thompson also took to social media to condemn the poor treatment:

The BBC’s security correspondent Frank Gardner (also a wheelchair user) said that, unfortunately, situations like this are “depressingly familiar”. It was only back in May that he himself was left waiting on a plane at Heathrow for the second time in recent years.

Moreover, just days after, 68-year-old osteoarthritis sufferer Ray King was left stranded on a plane for two hours at Manchester airport. He says he’ll never “fly through Manchester Aiport again”.

Daryl Tavernor, a 33-year-old from Stoke with spinal muscular atrophy, found himself in a similar situation only a few days on from these incidents, also having to wait two hours before being helped off the plane and even having to phone the police to get him through border control after the gate had long been emptied – adding another hour to his delay.

All three have been left negatively impacted by their experiences and have called for a review of airports’ wheelchair services and their all-around accessibility.

Sadly, their stories are just a handful among many; Garnder claims that “airports seem to be slipping back” and that the “level of investment and effort that goes into making money at these airports isn’t matched by the effort and money that needs to go into getting disabled passengers off the plane”

Gatwick has now said it is launching an investigation into why Brignell was left on the plane for so long and agreed that her treatment was simply “unacceptable”.

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