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Disabled Passenger Left Stranded On Plane When Staff Never Showed To Help Her To Her Wheelchair
Victoria Brignell, a wheelchair user, was left stranded for 95 minutes on a British Airways flight, according to Insider. Brignell, 45, had just landed at Gatwick Airport, returning from a vacation in Malta on June 4. She was waiting for airport staff to come help her off of the plane, however, they never showed up.
Paralyzed from the neck down, she is familiar with the deplaning process and was expecting to wait a short time for assistance. Upon landing, Brignell needs to be moved into an aisle chair, a special wheelchair designed to take wheelchair users to the airplane’s door. Once off the plane, she needs to be lifted into her wheelchair.
“When I landed at Gatwick, the crew told me that it would take 50 minutes for staff to come to get off the plane,” said Brignell. “Later, I was then told it would be another half an hour on top.”
She was forced to spend 95 minutes propped up by pillows in an uncomfortable position. And since commercial airlines only have standard tiny restrooms, Brignell did not have an accessible bathroom to use.
However, she said the British Airways staff were “wonderful.” When the airport staff failed to show, they eventually helped Brignell off the plane themselves.
“They kept asking me if I was okay, they were offering me drinks, and they wouldn’t stop apologizing even though it wasn’t their fault,” she told Insider.
Gatwick Airport has apologized to her. Wilson James, the subcontractor managing the staff who were supposed to assist her, has also apologized.
Brignell would like to make it clear that this is not an isolated incident. With this only being her second flight, she has avoided flying due to the horror stories she has heard from other people who use wheelchairs. She wants the airline industry to make changes geared toward better assisting disabled individuals.
“In the long term, we need to look towards having airplanes redesigned, so we can travel in our wheelchairs,” she said. “That will avoid me needing staff to come and help me off the plane, it will make the journey much more comfortable for me, and thirdly it will avoid the risk of my wheelchair going missing or being broken. I can travel in my wheelchair on a bus, on a train, and in a taxi. In this day and age, I should be able to fly in my wheelchair, too.”