Security staff at Belfast Airport reportedly told a disabled passenger that he could not bring his wheelchair repair and adjustment kit on-board for fear it could be used to ‘dismantle the plane’.
Steve Smithers had been due to visit his sick father but was told his repair kit, which consists of several spanners and wheel nut, was a security risk and was forced to miss his flight.
The airport has since apologised and offered to donate to a charity on Mr Smithers’ behalf. EasyJet has also offered compensation.
Mr Smithers said that he has “travelled extensively” and has never encountered any problems travelling independently.
According to the BBC, Mr Smithers said that a member of security staff told him the tool kit would have to go in the hold but that he would not have enough time to make it back through security in time for his flight.
Mr Smithers suggested that he could give the tools to cabin crew for the duration of the flight but security also said that was not possible.
He had tried to explain to security that he needed the tools to adjust his wheelchair to be able to fit it into the car he had hired from Gatwick. On ringing the car hire company, Mr Smithers was told there were no mechanics able to make the adjustments for him.
His partner said that he had been “literally in tears” explaining the situation to staff at the airport.
Belfast International Airport issued a statement acknowledging the distressing experience Mr Smithers underwent.
It said: “As the treatment experienced by Mr Smithers during this process fell well below standards expected from security personnel, in order to remedy this, the airport will be immediately reviewing customer service and escalation procedures with our security provider ICTS.”
“For disabled people it is not about asking for special treatment, but simply wanting the opportunity to live life as unimpaired by our disabilities as is possible, and to be allowed to do so with dignity,” said Mr Smithers.
“On this occasion, it was particularly pertinent for me as this was the last opportunity I would have to see my father before he starts chemotherapy but no disabled person should have to experience this, regardless of the circumstances for their trip.”