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Disabled Woman has no help boarding Ryanair flight

Sheila Cottril with her son Jeremy
Sheila Cottril with her son Jeremy Image credit:

A disabled mum missed a holiday to Spain because she was not offered any assistance boarding a Ryanair flight.

Sheila Cottrill arrived three hours before take-off at Birmingham Airport ahead of a trip to Barcelona to visit her son Jeremy.

The 87-year-old wheelchair user from Nuneaton, Warwickshire, was taken in her wheelchair through security and left near the boarding gate where she was told a Ryanair member of staff would help her board the plane.

But no one came and she missed the flight.

The distressed mum was later told there was a not enough “Ambulift” drivers on duty who could assist with her needs.

Jeremy Cottrill told Birmingham Live: "It's not the way to treat an elderly disabled passenger who was travelling on her own on her first holiday post-Covid situation.

"Prior to all of this she said she had lost her confidence in travelling. Now I fear this will be the last time she’ll consider doing so.

"Help is supposed to be there for disabled people. There was a total lack of care and sympathy."

He added: "My mum who is 87 years old and disabled arranged a probably last trip to see me who lives in Spain.

"This was something which wasn’t possible during the covid pandemic.

"She arranged 'assisted travel' with Birmingham Airport via the Ryanair ticketing process.

"She was guided in a wheelchair through security by staff and placed at the departure gate in plenty of time for her flight.

"Eventually the flight left without her despite her sitting at the gate because there were apparently not enough “Ambulift” staff available.

"She was then unceremoniously basically taken back to landslide and dumped at the 'Assisted Travel' desk six hours after arrival at the airport.

"She was told to make her own way home, and if she wished to travel again, to make her own way back to the airport the next day where she could book another Ryanair ticket for the additional cost of £100."

Ms Cottrill booked a second flight for May 2, she arrived three hours early, taken through security and told someone would collect her 45 minutes before take-off.

But, once again no one came and she had to ask for assistance when hearing the final boarding announcement.

For a second time, there was no one to help her so she had to leave the wheelchair behind and walk to the plane with a staff member carrying her suitcase.

"They forgot her again and she had to remind staff to take her to the gate," Jeremy said.

"Then she had to get out of her wheelchair and 'run' onto the tarmac to the aircraft and climb the steps or it would have left her behind again. What’s the world coming to?"

Ms Cottrill added: "I was very upset. It has put me off ever doing it again."

A spokesperson for Birmingham Airport said:  "We feel dreadful about the experience Mrs Cottrill had.

"We are looking into what happened with a view to making things right.

“We had over 110,000 customers travel through between Friday and Monday. Nearly 57,000 were departing passengers and 99.6 percent successfully caught their flight.

"We will look into the circumstances of anyone who missed their flight. We thank everyone for their patience and understanding.

“As always, our message to departing customers is: Help us help you keep queues moving by presenting at security 60 minutes before their flight time and removing any liquids, gels, pastes and electrical items from your bags before our security x-ray scanners."

Shelia Cottrill was offered a free flight from Birmingham to Barcelona the following evening, free of charge.