Monday, 3 Oct 2022

Disabled woman stranded at airport just trying to board Ryanair flight

A disabled woman was left ‘in tears’ and missed her flight after a series of blunders by airport staff.

Lynne Smillie, 49, was due to fly from Manchester to Benidorm for her 49th birthday.

She arrived at the airport early with husband Stephen, 54, to ensure they could get on the flight but things quickly went wrong.

The couple had arranged to meet staff from ABM, a company which provides special assistance at terminals.

Lynne couldn’t walk up the stairs to her Ryanair flight, so a member of the ABM team took her to the lift.

But she said the employee told her and Stephen to wait there for another employee to arrive.

Lynne claims a Swissport worker then asked the couple for their boarding passes 20 minutes later and wandered off with them.

Another ABM worker eventually came to fetch the couple but by that point they didn’t have their boarding passes.

The pair were ultimately left stranded and unable to board their flight without the right paperwork.

Stephen tried to carry her up the stairs but the flight had already taken off.

Lynne, from Stalybridge, Greater Manchester, suffers from muscular dystrophy, and said: ‘I burst into tears, I was tired and worked up, and we could see the plane was still there.

‘Usually, they put us in wheelchairs on first, but they didn’t. There were about five of us, and they left us to the end.

‘A staff member asked if there was anyone who couldn’t get up the steps themselves, and everyone could except me.

‘So, he took myself and my husband down and left us at the lift – saying someone would be back for us.

‘We sat there stressing out because the departure time was getting closer and closer and there was literally nothing we could do about it.

‘There was no explanation as to why he took our boarding passes – I still haven’t a clue.

‘The luggage was still being loaded, so we couldn’t understand why we couldn’t board.

‘They just kept saying, “the pilot won’t accept you, I’m so sorry”.

‘They said the only thing they could do was put me on a later flight, but we’d have to pay for the tickets. But why should we? It wasn’t our fault.’

After a very stressful experience, the distressed couple were forced to take a flight the following day.

A Ryanair spokesperson said: ‘We sincerely regret the inconvenience caused to this passenger.

‘As a gesture of goodwill, we re-accommodated her and her companion on the next available flight the following morning free of charge.’

A Manchester Airport spokesperson said: ‘It is disappointing to hear this passenger had an unsatisfactory experience at Manchester Airport.

‘Like airports across the UK, Manchester contracts a third-party company to provide special assistance, which is booked directly by the passenger with their airline.

‘We take special assistance requirements very seriously and, prior to the pandemic, were rated “good” in the Civil Aviation Authority’s most recent Airport Accessibility report.

‘We are confident that most people with special assistance needs travelling through our airport have a positive experience, but we recognise that this was not the case here.

‘We will continue to work closely with our specialist provider to ensure passengers requiring special assistance receive the best service possible and to understand how a repeat of this case will be avoided.’

An ABM spokesperson said: ‘We understand the importance of the special assistance service we provide to passengers.

‘We always aim to deliver that service with efficiency, respect, and care and regret when passengers experience anything short of these standards.

‘Learning from these moments, we are actively working with our teams, clients and partners to implement efforts to minimise the impact on passengers as we navigate this phase of the pandemic recovery.

‘Special assistance providers are one part of a larger network of airport services that continues to face challenges, including a national labour and resource shortage.

‘In addition, our teams are currently experiencing higher volumes of special assistance requests than our busiest pre-pandemic peak.’

Swissport has been approached for a comment.

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