DISABLED airport passengers say they were made to feel like an inconvenience after it was revealed dozens missed flights through no fault of their own.

Forty disabled passengers at Stansted Airport missed flights between 2015 and 2018, putting the airport on par with Birmingham (43), Manchester (39) and Edinburgh Airport (28).

Ambulifts, used to help people with mobility problems onto planes, not being available at the right time, passengers being assisted late to check-in points and last-minute changes causing travellers to be delayed, were some of the reasons for errors.

Miscommunication with passengers about the level of assistance they needed also gave rise to missed flights, including one deaf person who staff thought would be making their own way to the departure gate.

Halstead Gazette:

People being dropped off at Stansted Airport

The UK Civil Aviation Authority, which supplied the information in a Freedom of Information request, upgraded Stansted from “needs improvement” to “good” for its disabled access this week.

Steve Griffiths, the airport's chief operating officer, said: “It’s really important every passenger, regardless of any disability or assistance requirements, can travel confidently, easily and conveniently through the airport.

“In the last year we've worked closely with our airline partners and our service provider, Omniserv, to make many improvements.

"Through continuous engagement and collaboration with members of our disability forum we've achieved a clear focus on the issues which really matter to passengers.

"We're committed to ensuring all passengers with reduced mobility or hidden disabilities get the best possible experience every time they travel through the airport, and we recognise reaching that standard is a continual process.”

Halstead Gazette:

Steve Griffiths said he is "committed" to all passengers having the best experience

Across the UK more than 700 passengers have missed flights despite booking special assistance, Newsquest's Data Unit found.

This is a small fraction of otherwise successful journeys and millions of assistance requests each year, but Andy McDonald, the shadow secretary of state for transport, said this was "simply not acceptable".


He said: "Improved communication and adequate staffing are needed if we are to see these numbers reduce.

"While this may only be a relatively small number of missed flights in the overall figures, it's still too high and will have obviously been distressing for all those people who missed their scheduled flights.”

Wheelchair user Donna Spree had to "bum shuffle" along the central aisle of the plane having already waited about an hour for an ambulift to arrive.

She said: "They'd forgotten I was on the plane. My son's assistance had already appeared but I had to bum shuffle through the plane.

"I felt embarrassed and guilty as the crew was being held up too.

"When I was eventually taken off, I was left to take myself through the airport to find and grab our luggage alone."

Halstead Gazette:

Donna with her two children on a different excursion in Land o' Groats, Scotland

Donna, of Bishops Stortford, had been to Lanzarote with her 12-year-old son, also a wheelchair user, and her 14-year-old daughter, in December 2017.

She should have had two members of staff to assist her.

Donna said: "Stansted Airport has been the worst experience.

"I find in general I'm made to feel like an inconvenience and that I shouldn't fly just because I'm a wheelchair user.

"I'm fortunate that I'm confident enough to get the crew to chase things up, but not everybody is."

After problems while travelling with daughter Tiegan, five, who has diplegia cerebral palsy, Catherine Bird said: "We would never fly Stansted again."

On their return from a family holiday to Majorca, Tiegan's pushchair went through baggage reclaim so the family had to carry her through the airport, including waiting in the line for passport control.

Then when they landed back from a therapy centre in Poland last year, an ambulift failed to arrive and they waited on the tarmac for more than an hour for help.

Halstead Gazette:

Young Tiegan Bird photographed from her wheelchair

Catherine, 37, said: "The crew and captain were brilliant. They waited with us and continually rang through for the assistance.

"The captain eventually said he would personally bring his car on to the runway to pick us up. Funnily enough, it wasn’t long after when assistance arrived.

"We had no apology. In fact the two men who arrived were very rude and made us feel like we were an inconvenience.

"At other airports, we have absolutely no problems. We've travelled to Poland twice since from Gatwick and the assistance was absolutely perfect."

Other passengers reported excellent experiences with Stansted, which has since overhauled its arrivals route for passengers needing assistance, added new toilet facilities, and airport awareness lanyards, to indicate a passenger with a hidden disability.

Hundreds of staff have also been trained as Dementia Friends, helping to improve the airport's accessibility rating.

Nigel Kilvington, of Brentwood, is flying from Stansted again this week.

Halstead Gazette:

Nigel Kilvington at disabled trampolining club Recoil in Brentwood

The former banker, 52, said: "I've no issues with any of the airlines from there but sometimes they get very confused over the batteries in my mobility scooter.

"My scooter is first generation lithium battery-operated so when I first had it, the check-in staff didn't understand you take the batteries out and put them in your hand luggage.

"Now they're concerned over the power rating and require a sturdy box for the flight.

"Generally, I'm a very relaxed traveller and totally understand if assistance is delayed."