A DISABLED holidaymaker has stepped up his fight for airlines to provide wheelchairs to get to toilets after being stuck in his seat on a four-hour flight. Multiple sclerosis sufferer John Findlay is ready to launch legal action, claiming operators are breaching disability laws after several holiday flights left him trapped in his seat.
John, 48, from Fauldhouse, West Lothian, who was diagnosed with MS 18 years ago, said: “I’m in a wheel-chair but I still want to enjoy a holiday the same as everyone else.
“The last one was such an awful experience that I’ve decided to challenge airlines who don’t provide facilities to allow us to use the toilet.
“There’s help available to get us on board a plane.
“But once we’re strapped into our seat, most airlines don’t carry a simple aisle chair, a small version of a wheelchair, which we need to access the toilet.
“These chairs are inexpensive – a few hundred pounds – but they’re crucial for someone who can’t walk.
“I’ve been on several long-haul US flights where aisle chairs are always available but it appears, for journeys of six hours and under, companies don’t make them available on all flights.
“Despite booking ahead and asking if an aisle chair was provided, and being assured it was, I was stranded on both legs of the journey and treated with discourtesy by Jet2 staff when we went to Tenerife in August.
“It was a four-hour flight and I was placed in the ninth row, well away from the toilets. Can you imagine my discomfort and the level of stress I was under after being told there was no aisle chair held on the plane?
“Knowing I was going to face the same nightmare on my way home really marred my holiday.”
European disability rules state: “In order to give disabled persons opportunities for air travel, assistance to meet their particular needs should be provided at the airport as well as on board aircraft by employing the necessary staff and equipment.”
John’s partner Sharron Rodden, 46, said: “We don’t expect airline staff to take John to the toilet. As his carer, I’ll take him if an aisle chair is provided.”
John’s brother is Labour shadow health secretary Neil Findlay. He said: “Airlines appear happy to take money from disabled passengers but are failing to provide the most basic service.
“There has to be a change in regulations to ensure that people with mobility problems are treated with the same dignity and respect as everyone else.”
John’s case is now being examined by disability law expert Patrick McGuire of Thompsons, who said: “The law is there to protect disabled citizens, and either the law is flawed and we need to challenge it or airlines are not applying it.
“Either way, we’ll be doing all we can to ensure this situation changes.”
Jet2.com said: “We are deeply sorry to hear of Mr Findlay’s experiences and offer sincerest apologies.”
Becky Duff, head of policy and communications at the MS Society in Scotland, said: “Equipment and support should be provided for disabled people to have the same travel opportunities as people without mobility problems.”
Travel watchdog ABTA said: “Providers have very clear legal obligations and if consumers have concerns they should address them to the company and the Civil Aviation Authority or ABTA.”
The Civil Aviation Authority said: “Passengers with special needs should contact airlines and choose whichever suits their requirements.”