As a parent of two children under five, and as Director of ReallyKidFriendly.com, I was taken aback by the decision to ban buggies in Heathrow Terminal 1, and of the baggage handling firm's disregard for their customers' wellbeing and comfort.
At most other airport terminals, a typical mum travelling with a 1 year old baby will clip her 10 kg (22 lb) baby into a buggy, hang a 5 kg (11 lb) changing bag from the handles, and walk half a mile through the terminal. The baby can nap, play or have a snack in the buggy while she makes her way to the gate.
At Terminal 1, the ban will mean this same mum will walk half a mile carrying 15 kilograms (33 lbs), the weight unevenly balanced and moving unpredictably. Can't picture it? The next time you go grocery shopping, try walking home with 37 cans of chopped tomatoes, or 15 one-litre bottles of water.
This woman will likely need to lift and set down that same load at least 50 times during her journey. Her core muscles will not be supporting her body as well as they did before pregnancy. If she's one of the 25% of UK women who give birth by caesarian section, she will also have had major abdominal surgery relatively recently.
After her long walk through the airport, and in anticipation of the long walk upon arrival at her destination, she will have a welcome opportunity to rest.... if by rest we mean spending an hour or two on the plane, during which she will be expected to hold her baby on her lap.
The same scenario with twins, or with a 3 year old sibling in tow is just too awful to imagine.
The reason for the ban? The baggage handling firm claims that transporting the buggies from the gate to the hold poses too high a risk of manual handling injuries. Yes, that is too high a risk for trained staff lifting even an ultra-lightweight buggy weighing a mere 6 kg up a flight of stairs.
We wonder whether airport staff have considered their disability access policy lately, and whether it actually does include a clause excluding children under the age of 5.
At most airports, those less able to walk are assisted to and from the gates, usually with a wheelchair and a member of staff. We can't imagine their carer ever being required to leave the wheelchair at the check-in desk and then carry the person and their baggage through the airport.
Last I checked, babies, toddlers and preschoolers are significantly less able to walk than a healthy adult. Will the airport now be providing a member of staff and a buggy and accompanying each parent to and from the gate? Unlikely.
When it comes to being kid friendly, Heathrow Terminal 1 is unquestionably at the bottom of the pack.
What do you think of the Heathrow Terminal 1 buggy ban?
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