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Wheelchair Athlete Refused Flight By Eastern Airways On Grounds Of ‘Safety’

April 29, 2010

What a shame it is that things like this are still happening! Hasn’t Eastern Airways heard of the Disability Discrimination Act? Or worse- don’t they care that they so obviously broke it last week?

A wheelchair athlete heading for a race is angry he was stopped from boarding a flight on safety grounds.

Richie Powell, from Carmarthenshire, said Eastern Airways stopped him flying from Bristol to Aberdeen last Friday.

The airline said his booking had indicated he was able to climb the aircraft steps unaided and Mr Powell was refused boarding on safety grounds.

He eventually flew with Easyjet to Edinburgh and transport was arranged to the event.

Mr Powell said he had never had a problem with flying before despite travelling all over the world for competitions.

Wheelchair assistance is available to and from all our aircraft, as long as passengers are able to walk up the aircraft steps and onto the aircraft without assistance
Eastern Airways

He said: “They knew full well I couldn’t walk up the stairs because I’d phoned them to check the flights twice and checked details because of the volcanic ash problems.”

Mr Powell had flown with Eastern Airways to the competition for the last two years without experiencing any problems.

‘In faith’

He said: “The first year I went to the race I went up on my own. It was definitely the same aircraft.”

Despite his disability Richard Powell told the aircraft crew he was able to climb up the steps himself but was still refused boarding.

He said: “It’s basically discrimination. You can’t come on unless you can walk.”

Aberdeenshire council, who had been organising the trip, then managed to book Mr Powell another flight with Easyjet, allowing him to attend the 10 km race at Balmoral on time.

A spokeswoman from Aberdeenshire Council said: “The travel team had booked the flights in faith and had previously used the same airline and booking process for the same event in 2009.”

A statement from Eastern Airways said: “The booking that was made on behalf of Mr Powell highlighted that he needed wheelchair assistance, but was able to climb the aircraft steps unaided.

“Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and Mr Powell was refused boarding on safety grounds.

“Wheelchair assistance is available to and from all our aircraft, as long as passengers are able to walk up the aircraft steps and onto the aircraft without assistance.”

Although I use a wheelchair when I’m flying, I’m lucky because I can walk up a few steps and a short distance, given something to hold. But to refuse any DisAbled person any assistance at all on a plane is complete madness!

Wheelchair users, or parents of wheelchair users, I would love to know your experiences of flying as/with a wheelchair user. Have you ever experienced anything similar? I hope not! Do let us know in the comments below.

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