Gatwick airport has apologised to a disabled woman who was left stranded on a plane for more than an hour and a half after staff did not come to help her.
Victoria Brignell, from west London, who is paralysed from the neck down, was returning home on Saturday after a holiday in Malta.
She was initially told she would have to wait on the plane for 50 minutes, despite her wheelchair arriving “promptly”. But Wilson James, a firm contracted to help Gatwick assist disabled passengers, did not arrive to assist her.
Speaking of the incident, Brignell said: “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.
“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.
“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.”
Brignell was unable to use the toilet while on the plane. However, she said the British Airways staff were “fantastic”, very apologetic and provided her with drinks while she waited for the Gatwick airport staff to arrive.
Passengers hoping to board the plane were also delayed, as they were unable to come on until Brignell could leave.
Brignell added: “I have been very nervous about travelling 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.”
Brignell said she had received an apology from Gatwick via Twitter, and she planned to submit an official complaint.
She said: “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.”
A Gatwick airport spokesperson said: “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 spokesperson for Wilson James told the BBC: “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.”