Over recent years travel for disabled passengers and their families has become easier with growing awareness of the problems faced and appropriate legislation introduced. Sadly though this was not the case for the Pratt family from Cumbernauld near Glasgow who flew into Edinburgh airport recently.
Their ten year old daughter, Lucy, suffers from cerebral palsy and, in accordance with BAA requirements, the family had made it known to the airline when booking and again a few days before the flight that they would require a special disabled lift to disembark. The provision of the lift was not in itself the problem, more the fact that the only person trained to operate it was at home in bed.
Airline staff had the embarrassment of admitting to the Pratt family that they were not qualified to operate the equipment and although Lucy’s father Alex offered to help carry his daughter down the aircraft steps in her wheelchair, health and safety provisions were such that this was not a possibility. Had Mr Pratt had an accident he would not have been insured.
Airline staff suggested that he carry Lucy off the plane but due to her condition, which causes spasms of her limbs, Mr Pratt felt that this was too dangerous both for himself and his daughter. After an hour of discussions it was agreed that he could transport her in a light weight collapsible wheel chair.
Meanwhile the other passengers, who had waited half an hour for the problem to be resolved, had been bussed to the terminal. Mr Pratt describes the incident as “a farce” and told a Scottish newspaper that the whole situation was “shameful”.
Edinburgh airport has said that steps have been taken to make sure disabled access is available 24 hours a day, small compensation for the Pratt family, but at least the airport is now no longer breaching EU legislation introduced last month.