Reports of expensive mobility equipment being damaged or destroyed while in the hands of airlines or airport operators have been common over the summer holiday season.
One of the latest person to be impacted by this trend was a disabled teenager disembarking a plane at Bristol Airport, whose custom-made RGK wheelchair was crushed beneath an ambulift, which transports passengers from planes who are unable to use stairs.
Bristol Airport has apologised to Lewis Llorca and airline TUI agreed to pay for a replacement wheelchair.
Mr Llorca’s wheelchair had rolled beneath the ambulift while it was on the tarmac and as the lift descended it crushed the piece of equipment.
The incident spurred Tracey Llorca, Lewis’ mother, to write a post on social media which was met with a great deal of other people sharing their complaints of how disabled passengers and particularly their equipment are sometimes treated at airports.
It took two months for one of the companies involved in the incident, which included Bristol Airport, TUI and Swissport, which operated the lift, to take responsibility for what happened.
Ms Llorca told Bristol Live that the ambulift operator, Swissport, had not applied the wheelchair’s brakes after unloading the wheelchair, leaving it to roll beneath the lift.
She told the newspaper: “It was damaged beyond repair. We had to remain in the hot ambulift, along with five or six other passengers, for more than half an hour whilst all the relevant companies tried to decide whose fault it was.
“Lewis was devastated that he had to be wheeled through the airport in one of the airport’s wheelchairs – unavoidable, but not great for a 16-year-old, who waited years to be independent in his own snazzy one.
“A new custom-built chair takes 10-12 weeks to be built, which we had to order straight away and pay the £1,000 deposit ourselves.”
A spokesperson for Bristol Airport said: “We are sorry the family experienced damage to a wheelchair whilst being off-loaded from an aircraft at Bristol Airport.
“We appreciate how disappointing and frustrating this must have been and apologise to Tracey and her family for the inconvenience experienced.
“We liaised with the airline and their handling agent to ensure the matter was resolved and brought to a satisfactory conclusion.”
Tracey Llorca shared images of her son’s broken wheelchair on a viral social media post. Credit: Tracey Llorca