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Pilot tells passengers disabled person held up flight

a jet2 plane
a jet2 plane Image credit: commons.wikimedia.org

A pilot of a Jet2 flight has caused offence to a disabled traveller telling passengers their journey was delayed because of their wheelchair.

The pilot announcement was made on a flight from Bristol to Tenerife in July so everybody on board could hear.

Caroline Freeman, from Swindon, said she felt “humiliated” after the pilot shared the problem with her electric wheelchair.

Ms Freeman, who has disabilities caused by Thalidomide, told BBC Radio Wiltshire the flight was "embarrassing, uncomfortable, stressful and humiliating” and she was treated in a “very undignified way”.

Upon arrival at Bristol Airport she was told the crew would need to partly dismantle her wheelchair so it could be loaded on the plane - something which she has never experienced before.

When she boarded the plane the rest of the passengers had already taken their seats, which is not uncommon for a disabled passenger.

It was then when the crew made the embarrassing announcement explaining why the flight had been delayed.

Freeman added the pilot also made repeated references to how much time it had taken to load her wheelchair.

To make matters worse, during the safety announcement a cabin crew told Freeman they couldn’t help her in the event of an emergency, despite her being “already terribly stressed and upset”.

“I just didn’t want to hear it, it’s as if my life isn’t as valuable as anybody else,” she explained.

Freeman is now calling for disabled people to have priority boarding on all flights and planes to be made accessible so wheelchairs can easily be loaded in the cabin area.

Her MP, Sir Robert Buckland, said the experience must had been “horrendous” and there was “ a complete breakdown in communication” 

“She’s not asking for the world, she’s just asking for equal treatment and respect,” he added.

A Jet2 spokesperson said: “We take matters such as this extremely seriously and we have investigated it as a matter of absolute urgency.

“Despite our teams doing everything they could to assist Ms Freeman when she travelled, the reason for the delay was because the wheelchair was too large to fit into the aircraft hold without the headrest being folded first. As the headrest had not been folded previously, an engineer assisted so that it could be done correctly before being loaded into the hold.

“We acknowledge that our Special Assistance team should have more accurately noted the dimensions of the wheelchair when they spoke to Ms. Freeman initially, and that this would also have prevented any such delay. We are ensuring that additional training takes place to ensure that this does not happen again.”

A Bristol Airport spokesperson said: “We take our responsibilities to customers requiring extra assistance seriously and we work with our business partners to provide the level of customer service our passengers expect.”

Sir Richard Buckland has escalated the case to the Department of Transport.