Disabled OAP, 87, missed flight to see son as airport staff ‘forgot’ to help her

The son of an elderly passenger has explained that she missed her flight from Birmingham Airport to Spain as staff “failed to help her on board”.

He worries that the disastrous journey, which happened on the Bank Holiday weekend, will put her off travelling to see him again.

Sheila Cottrill, 87, from Nuneaton, Warwickshire, arrived at the airport three hours before her Ryanair flight to Barcelona.

She was to fly out and visit her son Jeremy in Spain and had been separated from him throughout the pandemic on May 1.

Sheila, who uses a wheelchair, was taken through security by assisted passage staff and left close to her gate.

She was told someone would return to help her board the flight, but waited alone until she had to watch the plane leave without her.

An upset Sheila was told later on that there had been a shortage of "Ambulift" drivers to help those with mobility problems.

Son Jeremy told BirminghamLive: "It's not the way to treat an elderly disabled passenger who was travelling on her own on her first holiday post-Covid situation.

"Prior to all of this she said she had lost her confidence in travelling. Now I fear this will be the last time she’ll consider doing so.

"Help is supposed to be there for disabled people. There was a total lack of care and sympathy."

He added: "My mum who is 87 years old and disabled arranged a probably last trip to see me who lives in Spain. This was something which wasn’t possible during the Covid pandemic.

"She arranged 'assisted travel' with Birmingham Airport via the Ryanair ticketing process. She arrived on Sunday (May 1) three-hours early and presented herself to the 'assisted travel' desk.

"She was guided in a wheelchair through security by staff and placed at the departure gate in plenty of time for her flight. Eventually the flight left without her despite her sitting at the gate because there were apparently not enough 'Ambulift' staff available.

"She was then unceremoniously basically taken back to landslide and dumped at the 'Assisted Travel' desk six-hours after arrival at the airport.

“She was told to make her own way home and if she wished to travel again to make her own way back to the airport the next day where she could book another Ryanair ticket for the additional cost of £100."

Sheila re-booked her flight for May 2, but was left with a stressful journey back to the airport where once again she arrived three hours later and was taken through security.

She was told someone would see her onto the flight in 45 minutes, but when she heard the final call the 87-year-old had to flag a staff member down to help her.

No specialist drivers were available again.

So, Jeremy’s mother chose to leave her wheelchair behind and walked onto the plane with a staff member holding her case.

He noted: "They forgot her again and she had to remind staff to take her to the gate.

"Then she had to get out of her wheelchair and 'run' onto the tarmac to the aircraft and climb the steps or it would have left her behind again. What’s the world coming to?"

Sheila added: "I was very upset. It has put me off ever doing it again."

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Birmingham Airport said they are investigating what went wrong.

A spokesman said: "We feel dreadful about the experience Mrs Cottrill had.

“We are looking into what happened with a view to making things right.”

A Ryanair spokesperson added: “Wheelchair services at Birmingham Airport are operated by OCS, who failed to assist Ms. Cottrill to her flight on time for its scheduled departure at 15:50, 1st May.

"As a gesture of goodwill, Ryanair re-accommodated Ms. Cottrill on the next available flight from Birmingham to Barcelona the next evening, at 20:50, 2nd May, free of charge.”

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