‘The Airport’s disabled assistance was so bad we missed our flight to Lapland’

‘The Airport’s disabled assistance was so bad we missed our flight to Lapland’

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Dear Katie,

I booked a trip of a lifetime to Lapland with family and friends for December last year but due to the incompetence of the disabled assistance at the airport we missed our flight. My daughter has a severe life limiting disability and this was a very special time for us.

When we arrived at the airport we went straight to the Ryanair check-in desks. While we were queuing, my wife and our daughter were moved because her disabled buggy was causing obstructions. No one asked if we needed help or if we had visited the disabled help desk.

After checking our luggage my wife and I saw the disabled assistance desk towards the other side of the airport and checked in. to help us show through security, as we hoped.

We went through the security barriers only to find that our daughter’s buggy would not fit. This added several minutes to the security process.

We were then guided through the dedicated lane for disabled passengers. Then there was confusion about electronic devices.

I took my mobile phone out and put it in the tray, but when my wife asked the security lady if she should take her phone out she said “no, it’s fine”.

So we left electronic devices in our bags only to embarrass the staff at the other end and have to rescan the devices. This added unnecessary extra time to our trip.

After the security process a very helpful member of staff started chatting with our children, who told him about our special trip to Lapland. We had to get some porridge for our disabled daughter, who has special dietary needs.

The gentleman radioed to find out our gate number and went above and beyond our expectations by showing us a shortcut to Pret A Manger. However, he expressed no urgency for us to proceed to the gate. We think it gave a false sense of reassurance.

After hearing conversations from fellow passengers, we had to proceed on foot. When we finally arrived at the gate we were very surprised when Ryanair refused to allow us to board the flight.

The plane was sitting there with both doors still open.

In the midst of the hysteria of our upset children it suddenly hit home that our one-off trip to Lapland had come around us. It emerged that two other families were also denied permission to board the flight.

Ryanair seemed sympathetic after I explained that we had a disabled passenger and described the problems we were having through the airport.

We were taken to the Ryanair customer service desk, where a member of staff searched for alternative flights for a small fee. However, the only flight available was several days later and only three seats were available.

It feels like Ryanair and Stansted are blaming each other for what went wrong here, with us caught in the middle.

– JW, via email

Dear reader,

Your daughter has Coffin Siris syndrome, which causes severe physical and learning difficulties. To take her on a long journey like this required planning and effort, which you feel was wasted now, because none of you have actually been to Lapland.

I am very sorry about the way this holiday endeavor turned out. I want you to know that I recognize the extra layer of difficulty you faced, and that I empathize with you.

I have asked Ryanair and Stansted airport to carry out a full investigation into exactly what happened. Stansted immediately began trawling through the CCTV footage of you and your group making your way through the airport. I’m afraid the conclusion of the investigation was not what you expected.

You are advised to arrive at check-in at least two hours before departure, which means you need to be there by 4.50am at the latest. However, the footage shows that your party of eight did not arrive until 5.18am. You stayed there for about 26 minutes and were advised to proceed without a disability assistant as you were already so late.

Then you managed to clear security in 14 minutes and the fact that you were sent the wrong way only added 90 seconds to your journey, according to the TCI. You then headed to Pret A Manger. Unfortunately, you didn’t realize that passengers with special needs were allowed to bring food, so you could have avoided this extra time.

You arrived at the gate 10 minutes after it closed and Stansted said its records showed you were the only passenger to miss the flight. You chose to downsize the three seats on the other flight because it would mean you only had a day and a half in Lapland and you didn’t feel it was worth the effort.

Unfortunately, as it seems that the reason you missed the flight was because you were half an hour late for check-in, I cannot reasonably ask Stansted airport or Ryanair to compensate you.

I know you will be disappointed about this, but I recommend that you now discuss what has happened with your travel insurer. Good luck.

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