A disabled man was left to “struggle” after his wheelchair was placed on an airport baggage carousel in error, leaving it with irreversible damage.
Mark Parrin, 57, had flown to Gatwick Airport on Wednesday 28 September with his wife as the two returned from a three-week holiday in Tenerife.
Despite having requested special assistance in advance of their easyJet flight, at Gatwick, the couple were left stranded for an hour and 20 minutes before assistance came to support them, they told Kent Live.
When assistance did finally arrive, the couple were told that Mark’s wheelchair had been erroneously removed from the flight hold and sent to baggage reclaim.
The dad of three has been a wheelchair user since 1990, after he suffered a serious spinal injury.
When the pair reached baggage reclaim, they found Mark’s £2,000 wheelchair had suffered damage during the move, including the right wheel being bent out of shape.
Mark said: “I’ve got a few colleagues that worked in the same field as I did who had a few horror stories about this but up until now I’ve had no problems. It was interesting to be on the receiving end. We were out in the airfield as the plane didn’t stop directly at the terminal. Everyone else had left by the steps.”
“You can accept a 15 minute delay,” he added, “but this eventually turned into an hour and 20 minutes. We kept the poor taxi driver waiting for over two hours. I was pretty calm, but as time went on I started to get a bit annoyed.”
He continued that, without his wheelchair, Mark “had to struggle”, with the assistance of his wife and one of the service providers, to “hobble” to the nearest airport buggy.
Mark said: “Without your chair, it starts to dawn on you that this situation is really irritating. Your independence is totally taken away and there’s no thought given to people that need assistance. Everyone was starting to get a bit agitated.”
He claimed that this was the worst assistance has received at an airport, adding: “My wife didn’t look happy. When I got closer I could see that the wheel was completely buckled. It was so bent up that we were unable to push the chair. I had to take one of the sides of the chair just so that it could actually move.
“I must admit, it made me feel sick as soon as I saw it. As a wheelchair user, your mobility and independence are gone, all through someone not thinking.”
Mark added that he was unsatisfied with the service he received, saying: “We were told you have to register it with the baggage people. The only advice they could give was to contact easyJet and claim through them.
“There was no apology and I received zero customer service – basically they told us to be on our way. To see the lack of customer service and assistance staff on the ground is just demoralising. We pay the same as everyone else, so we do expect a service.”
He feels his wheelchair was thrown onto the conveyor belt “like a suitcase”, adding: “I’ve now got a chair that I can’t use, so what am I meant to do in the meantime?”
A spokesperson for Gatwick told The Independent: “We are sorry to hear about this incident and have escalated it to our assisted services provider, Wilson James, to investigate as a priority.”
A spokesperson for Wilson James told The Independent: “Mr Parrin’s experience falls far below our standards for delivery. We have investigated this incident and can confirm that the delay was due to an unanticipated spike in operational requests during the time, and for which we take responsibility.
“We have been in direct contact with Mr Parrin to personally to apologise for the delay, discuss his experience and offer service recovery.
“The PRM service requires collaboration across airport service providers and wheelchairs are handled by groundcrew staff, so we are unable to provide specific information in this case, but we know the impact that damage to mobility devices has on their owners. We have provided information and assistance to the passenger regarding his claim in the meantime.”
EasyJet told The Mirror it is in the process of contacting Mark to arrange for repairs to his wheelchair and a temporary replacement, as well as offering a gesture of goodwill.