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BBC Reporter “Utterly Sick” Over Mistreatment of Wheelchair Pax at LHR

BBC Reporter “Utterly Sick” Over Mistreatment of Wheelchair Pax at LHR
Jeff Edwards

BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner called Heathrow Airport out after he was reportedly left stranded on an arriving international flight because ramp workers lost his wheelchair.

Former war reporter and current BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner had some harsh words for the leadership at Europe’s busiest airport after reportedly being stranded on an arriving flight for nearly two hours, because airport workers were unable to locate his wheelchair. The journalist took to social media to express his frustration and shame for London Heathrow Airport (LHR) over an alleged pattern of apathy when it comes to passengers in need of special assistance.

“I am so utterly sick of @HeathrowAirport ground staff ‘losing’ my wheelchair,” Garner told his more than 82,000 Twitter followers on Saturday. “Over 70 mins after landing back from Ethiopia I’m still stuck on an empty plane while they try to find it. Just when is UK’s premier airport going to stop treating disabled passengers this way?”

In the past, Gardner, who was left with serious permanent injuries after being shot by militants sympathetic to Al Qaeda in 2004, has taken LHR officials to task over the way passengers who use wheelchairs were treated. This time, however, the longtime journalist who was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) “for services to journalism” by Queen Elizabeth in 2005, pointedly declined to accept an apology from airport officials.

“You do this nearly every time,” he wrote in response to an olive branch from LHR. “You ‘create a case number’ and then it happens again the next time. This casual disregard for disabled passengers is a disgrace to British airports.”

Gardner later reported that CEO John Holland-Kaye requested a meeting to discuss the way accessibility issues are handled at the airport. According to Gardner they ended the meeting, which he called “the most productive one hour of my life,” after identifying three key areas for improvement.

Holland-Kaye followed the meeting by making several public appearances to discuss the issue. Though Gardner initially expressed gratitude for the CEO’s earnest concern over the treatment of passengers in need of special assistance, he later pushed back strongly against comments made by the airport chief following their meeting.

The executive told reporters that the airport would aim to disembark disabled passengers within “20 minutes after everybody else has got off.” He also suggested that passengers left stranded on aircraft should not be eligible for traditional compensation available to delayed passengers.

“Let’s be clear: making disabled passengers wait an extra 20 mins on plane after last pax off may be legally permissible but it is still UNACCEPTABLE,” Gardner responded almost immediately on Twitter. “Equal treatment please, this is 2018, not 1970.”

In January 2017, Gardner made headlines when he took officials at London Gatwick Airport (LGW) behind the woodshed over the plight of passengers with special needs after he was left on an empty plane without assistance for nearly 30 minutes. In this latest incident, he says that he was stranded on an Ethiopian Airlines flight at LHR for more than an-hour-and-a-half.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

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