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Disabled Woman Stranded on Plane for 1.5 Hours | Staff Meant to Assist Her off the Plane Never Showed Up

Disabled Woman Stranded on Plane for 1.5 Hours | Staff Meant to Assist Her off the Plane Never Showed Up

"I booked the help two months in advance, I didn’t just turn up, and I reminded them two weeks before as well," the woman shared.

Trigger Warning: This story contains ableist conduct that some readers may find distressing.

Victoria Brignell from London is paralyzed from the neck down. After a holiday in Malta, the woman, 45, landed at Gatwick airport on her British Airways flight on June 4 in an uncomfortable position, according to Business Insider

Being a wheelchair user, Brignell knew she would have to wait to get off the flight, but upon landing, she was informed by the staff that she would have to wait on the plane for 50 minutes, despite her wheelchair arriving “promptly,” per The Guardian

“My wheelchair arrived promptly, but the people who were supposed to help me get off the plane didn’t turn up; they were busy elsewhere.” Wilson James, a firm that works with Gatwick Airport to assist passengers with disabilities, did not arrive to assist her.



 

 

"Shortly after landing the BA airline staff came up to me and said they’re sorry but the people who are meant to help get me off the plane would not be there for 50 minutes. Time passed and I was then told it would be another half an hour on top of that. In the end, I was waiting an hour and 35 minutes," the woman said of the incident. 

Explaining to The Guardian why she needs assistance to get off a place, Brignell said, “I am paralysed from the neck down so I can’t use my arms or legs. To get off a plane I need two people to lift me from the airplane seat into an aisle chair, which is a specially designed narrow wheelchair to push me along the aisle off the plane and lift me into my wheelchair waiting outside," she revealed. 



 

 

Talking about how her condition restricts her from traveling, Brignell said, “I have been very nervous about traveling by plane because I had heard so many horror stories about people’s chairs going missing, but I went for the first time just before the pandemic, so this was the second time I’d gone abroad, and my fourth flight,” she added. She also mentioned that this is not an isolated incident.

In fact, she was not even able to use the toilet as commercial airlines do not have accessible toilets. Brignell mentioned that the staff in the aircraft was 'wonderful' who kept apologizing to her for the situation and also provided her with drinks while she waiting for her to be helped out of the flight.



 

 

As a boomerang effect, passengers who had to board the flight to the next destination were also delayed because Brignell was still stuck inside. Addressing this, Brignell said, "If you improve services for disabled people, you improve them for everybody, and you can see that here by the next flight being delayed by an hour and a half."

The woman—who received an apology from the airport—said she had plans to issue a complaint. “I just feel in 2022 people shouldn’t be stuck on a plane for that long. UK airports need to get their act together and plan their staffing appropriately. I booked the help two months in advance, I didn’t just turn up, and I reminded them two weeks before as well.” 



 

 

“The treatment received at Gatwick airport was unacceptable and I would like to offer our sincere apologies to Victoria. This incident has been escalated and Gatwick and Wilson James, our assistance provider, are investigating how this happened as a matter of urgency,” a Gatwick airport spokesperson said. 

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Wilson James team also reached out to Brignell to apologize for their mismanagement. “We are deeply disappointed to have delivered a poor service on this occasion. While the aviation sector, in particular, is struggling with well-documented pressures, Ms. Brignell’s experience is unacceptable and falls far below our values and aims as a service provider; the Wilson James team extends our sincere apologies to her," they shared. 

“We will be reaching out to her privately to offer our apologies, and Wilson James and the airport are investigating the incident as a matter of priority.”

After this incident, Brignell has been advocating for redesigned planes that can make flying easier for wheelchair users. "In this day and age, I should be able to fly in my wheelchair, too."

References:

https://www.businessinsider.com/disabled-woman-stranded-alone-british-airways-plane-for-90-minutes

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/jun/06/disabled-woman-left-on-plane-at-gatwick-airport-for-an-hour-and-a-half

Representative Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Wicki58

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