Letter to British Airways

Sent March 11th.

I am contacting you to provide feedback on my experience as a traveller with motor neurone disease on a recent flight to Madrid and the subsequent return to London. The outbound trip especially was distressing. I took my powered wheelchair with me. All went well at Heathrow. I drove the powered wheelchair to the gate and then walked with my sticks to the seat. The BA crew on the plane were great, as were the ground crew.
On arrival at Madrid we landed at terminal 4S as usual. I expected that the wheelchair would be at the door so that I could drive it following the normal route to baggage reclaim. This route involves an elevator down to the transit railway, use of the transit railway and then an elevator to baggage reclaim.
I was helped off the plane with then aisle wheelchair, which was fine. I was then transferred to a manual wheelchair and told that the powered wheelchair would be at baggage reclaim. I was then pushed, with my friend walking with me, for a long way. We had to go through security, which never happens for arriving passengers. This was unnecessary hassle. We were then taken outside and I was loaded into the back of a filthy and disgusting van. The people made no effort to make it clean inside and I was jammed against another wheelchair in there. Very uncomfortable. We then drove for 15 minutes and then I was pushed to baggage reclaim. All the time I needed the toilet, and the wheelchair was much too small for me. On arrival at the baggage reclaim we needed a further 15 minutes to locate the powered wheelchair, and we went to the wrong place first time. From the doors of the plane opening at 5 PM to the moment I met my friends in the arrivals took one hour and 45 minutes. The taxi we ordered had to wait and we were charged €35 waiting for that. The whole process was degrading, uncomfortable and totally unacceptable.
On the return trip from Madrid to London I was able to drive my powered wheelchair to terminal 4S. This made it seem even more absurd that I was not able to drive it from terminal 4S to baggage reclaim on the outbound sector.
The return trip went well until we arrived at Heathrow. The plane parked remotely near terminal 5c. I knew that I would be offloaded by a truck. I was expecting that the powered wheelchair would be taken off the plane and put into the truck. I was told that the powered wheelchair was taken by mistake away from the plane and to the baggage reclaim. I was asked if I would like it to be brought back, but I said no thinking it would be easy to get to the chair. In fact this is a decision I should not even have to make. The airline should understand that I need my powered wheelchair as soon as possible. I was pushed in an aisle wheelchair into the truck, and on arrival at the terminal was lifted onto a manual wheelchair. We then went to baggage reclaim to collect our wheelchair and luggage. Again, all this time I needed to go to the toilet, but getting in and out of the small manual wheelchair is very difficult for me. I am 6’2″ tall.
All the people I encountered did their best, but for me as a traveller both the outbound and the inbound trips were distressing and way below what I would expect from BA.
While I was in Madrid, I called the BA number in the UK to provide feedback about my outbound trip, and to reassure myself that the homeward trip would be okay. I went through an automated phone system, and was told that due to the volume of complaints nobody could speak to me and that I should provide my feedback online. Since I am disabled I am not able to use a laptop, and the display on my iPhone is too small. Therefore I was unable to contact BA, because you did not enable me to speak with anybody. Incomprehensible really.
I look forward to hearing from you about this, and to hearing what you can do to rebuild my confidence in your airline. 

Author: Andrew Knowlman

I am a 50-year old father of two children, married to Jane. I live in Hertfordshire, UK. I was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in April 2015.

2 thoughts on “Letter to British Airways”

  1. Surely BA must have a wealth of experience of supporting people with additional needs?!!
    They can transport a full plane of people 700 miles from A to B but they can’t transport your wheelchair to be with you at the other end? Shame on BA Andy..you must get an apology for that distress. Hope that never happens again.X

  2. Well BA really needs to offer an apology and compensation to you. Appalling treatment towards a passenger. BA should hang their head in shame. This is not a good look and they need to ensure equality for all. BA you disgust me. Christine.

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