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Manchester Airport: Wheelchair User Left On Plane Calls For Review

June 6, 2022

A wheelchair user who was stuck on a plane for two hours because there was no-one to help him disembark has called for support services to be properly funded and not be “an afterthought”.

Daryl Tavernor said he was trapped after arriving at Manchester Airport from Rome at 02:30 BST on 26 May.

He said once off, he had to call police to get past immigration, as the border desks were unmanned for over an hour.

The 33-year-old, from Stoke-on-Trent, said it had been “really concerning”.

Mr Tavernor, who has spinal muscular atrophy, said he had expected to wait about 15 minutes to disembark from the flight, which had been delayed by three hours.

However, he said he and his carer were stuck as the plane’s “visibly annoyed” captain tried to find the special assistance staff and when someone finally arrived at about 04:30 BST, they gave no reason for the delay.

After leaving the plane, he then had to wait a further hour at the immigration desk, as there were no border agents on duty.

‘Done on a budget’

He said the passenger assistance worker’s calls to Border Force officials were “not going through” so he told him: “I’m going to have to call the police because we are trapped”.

“I felt extremely tired, frustrated and I had run out of ideas,” he said.

“There was absolutely no other option but to call the police.”

He said Greater Manchester Police called Border Force and within 10 minutes, five agents arrived, who said they had been “contacted by GMP, not the airport”.

The Home Office however said agents were alerted by the airport.

A spokeswoman said: “Border Force were only alerted to the late disembarkation of passengers at 05:15 by Manchester Airport, but took immediate action to expedite them through control.”

Mr Tavernor said it was “really concerning that the airport management has no communication with Border Force, especially in situations like this”.

“God forbid there was an incident [as] the lack of communication between welfare and security is very concerning”, he said.

He added that it was the second time he had faced such issues at Manchester Airport, but it was a national issue.

Similar issues have been reported at other airports, including by the BBC’s security editor Frank Gardner, who was left on a plane at Heathrow Airport.

Mr Tavernor said assistance was being “done on a budget” and “often under-resourced and undertrained”.

“What I want to see happen is a valued special assistance service and not just an afterthought,” he said.

“I’d like to see a minimum standard such as a time period of boarding, minimum training for operators, and better equipment.”

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How do you book (and complain) about airport assistance?

  • The UK government recommends passengers request assistance through their airline, tour operator or travel agent at least 48 hours before travel
  • If a passenger has not pre-notified, assistance will always still be provided but you might have to wait longer to be helped
  • If things go wrong and you’re unhappy, the Civil Aviation Authority recommends you take your complaint directly to the airline or airport
  • If you remain dissatisfied, you can refer your complaint to an alternative dispute resolution body which provides alternative methods, such as mediation and conciliation, instead of going to court

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A Manchester Airport spokesman said he was “sorry to hear that Mr Tavernor had a disappointing experience” and was working with the assistance provider ABM to “understand how a repeat of this might be avoided”.

He said the airport, along with “airlines, baggage handlers and assistance providers”, were experiencing staff shortages “due to the rapid pace at which travel has recovered from the pandemic”, adding: “We are working tirelessly to address this as quickly as possible.”

An ABM spokeswoman said the company was examining Mr Tavernor’s experience and regretted any time when its service did not meet ABM’s standards.

“We are experiencing higher volumes of passengers who require special assistance than our busiest pre-pandemic peak [and] understand the inconvenience and emotional impact this all may have”, she added.

A Ryanair spokeswoman said the company’s crew “remained with this passenger and his carer at all times” while they waited for over two hours for assistance.

The Home Office has also been contacted for comment.

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