Manchester Airport dealt a damning blow to more than 8000 people who signed a petition asking Manchester Airport to introduce special transfer hoists, which safely help disabled passengers into their seats.
The Airport along with the other three airports it owns Bournemouth, London Stansted and East Midlands still do not have a facility in place that will assist wheelchair users to Board, or de Board flights safely and with Dignity. Instead passengers are dragged to there seats by Airport Helpers.
Passengers who have experienced this "drag" process stated they feel embarrassed, humiliated, and uncomfortable, and feel at risk of injury.
Lauren Senior, 23, is a full-time carer for her brother Jacob, 17, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a progressive degenerative condition which means his muscles are wasting away. Lauren who set up the online petition said "Whenever we go away, we fly from Manchester Airport" - but she 'dreads' the journey because there are no transfer hoists.
Lauren isn't alone in this; other people have taken to social media with similar complaints.
Rachel George had to travel from Cornwall to Manchester for treatment in hospital with her son. This was a weekly trip and lasted for 8 weeks. Adam her son suffers with a neuromuscular condition and cannot stand or walk at all. Rachel also suffers a back injury and is now unable to lift the 9 year old.
The family are now forced to drive the 5 and half hour (330 mile) trip to Manchester. Rachel said:
"We need to use a transfer hoist to get on the plane and i am sure that many other potential passengers, like my son, would be able to fly if Manchester Airport provided such equipment"
The Decision not to purchase Eagle Passenger Lifters at the airport came after the airport said that a recent trial of the system had "received mixed reviews from airlines and passengers".
Yet many campaigners are now saying that the trial at the airport was designed to fail from the start.
Campaigners say the airport went out of their way to make the system seem not needed. In fact since the trial started over 3 Months ago only a handful of people have been able to take advantage of it, as to take part in the trial, and not be dragged, you first of all had to know about the trial!
The Airlines and handling agents didn't tell you about it. If you rang the Disabled Assistance telephone lines, you weren't told about it either. Neither were customers told about the trial at Check-in.
The only way to take part in the trial was to contact the airport via an email address 48 hours prior to your flight. And that email address is hidden away amongst all the other Press Releases on the Airports Web Page.
The Airport was so good at playing Hide and seek that in the first month it is understood that only 1 person took part in the trial which forced the trial to be extended over Christmas. It was then again extended until Febuary after further pressure from campaigners, yet the airport still refused to advertise the trial and again no passengers were informed prior to their flights that it existed.
It is estimated that around 20% of the UK's adult population has some form of disability. By 2030 this group is expected to represent nearly a third of the total population. The collective spending power of disabled people in the UK is estimated to be around £80 billion a year.
One particular Airline at Manchester Virgin Atlantic also see the benefits the system brings to its passengers and is extremely enthusiastic about the Eagle Passenger Lifter.
The Airline says that"It is their mission to have a the Eagle Lifter installed at all their ports in UK and overseas".
A spokes person for Virgin Atlantic said
"We will assist passangers to book the Eagle where ever possible both in the UK and at the destination airport too, we have also fed back to a number of Airports including Manchester the benefits the system provides, both operationaly and for our customers"
Campaigners are now looking at other avenues to make Manchester Airport take action and invest in there Disabled Passangers. As well as the Petition, Campaigners are now writing the City Council and other nine Greater Manchester Councils that own 64% of the Groups shares. They are also contacting the EHRC to highlighting how The Manchester Airport Group, fails to comply with Both The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and The Department for Transports document originally implemented in 2003 called "Access to Air Travel for Disabled Persons and Persons with Reduced Mobility Document". This Document is a legal requirement by the Airport and sets out a number of requirements.
In particular Article 7 of Regulation (EC) No 1107/2006 ANNEX I: Assistance under the responsibility of the managing bodies of airports, states that an airport is responsible for:
The assistance and arrangements necessary to enable disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility to:
- proceed from the aircraft door to their seats,
- proceed from their seats to the aircraft door,
- disembark from the aircraft, with the provision of lifts, wheelchairs or other assistance needed, as appropriate,
The document clearly shows how the Airport authority is ignoring its Legal Responsibility to organise the services necessary to enable disabled passengers to board, disembark and transit between flights with dignity and respect at all of its Airports.
You can keep upto date on this story and add your name to the petition by clicking here.