Airport Special Assistance Controversy

January 8, 2018

On a recent flight to Nice, Nathalie Allport-Grantham arrived at Stansted airport having booked special assistance. This was to include use of a wheelchair and help carrying her bags.

“If you want someone to carry your bags, you have to pay £50.”

As she suffers from Ehlers-Danolos syndrome, a condition which affects the body’s connective tissue, Nathalie uses a wheelchair part-time. Not only prone to dislocated joints and chronic pain, she also suffers from postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, which affects her heart and can cause her to faint. Upon receiving confirmation of the special assistance, which was booked almost two months in advance, Nathalie decided to leave her own wheelchair at home.

Help refused

When she arrived at check-in, a wheelchair was allocated and Nathalie made her way to the airport lounge. It was here that things started to go wrong. While transferring to a more comfortable seat, the assigned wheelchair was taken away and not returned. With no other option, Nathalie walked the five minutes to the departure gate when her flight was announced.

“This lady is wasting my time.”

At the gate, she advised a member of staff of the pre-booked special assistance only to be told: “If you want someone to carry your bags, you have to pay £50.” Nathalie was completely taken aback. As her condition means any sort of lifting can result in joint dislocation, which she detailed on her assistance request, she was not expecting to be met with such disregard for her safety.

The situation was made entirely worse when Nathalie advised she overheard the staff member proclaiming: “This lady is wasting my time.” Feeling completed degraded and reduced to tears, another staff member came to her aid. He was able to confirm the special assistance booking and sourced a replacement wheelchair. Nathalie was however left humiliated and saddened that an apology for the situation was not offered.

Lessons to be learned

Nathalie’s story has gained national media coverage and we hope the staff member in question now understands the error of her ways. It perhaps highlights a need for further training in understanding the needs of those who have pre-booked special assistant to prevent situations like this happening in the future.

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