‘Treated like luggage’: Disabled passengers petition to Manchester Airport

Going on holiday should be a chance to relax and enjoy ourselves, but for many disabled people it can be difficult and painful simply to get onto the plane.

Flying can be a difficult experience for disabled passengers, with some ‘dragged and man-handled’ and others struggling to use the bathroom during long flights.

Now more than 7,500 people have signed a petition asking Manchester Airport to introduce special transfer hoists, called Eagle Hoists, which safely help disabled passengers into their seats.

These hoists are already in use at Gatwick and Heathrow Airports, but Manchester Airport is not even trialling them at the moment.

Brian Hilton, campaigns officer for Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People said: “Transfers are very basic.

“You are spending a thousand pounds plus sometimes on airfare and you are treated as not much better than luggage.”

Manchester Airports Group, which operates Manchester Airport, recently called for the government to give a boost to airports outside of London.

However, Mr Hilton said: “Manchester is trying to promote itself as the second airport in the country when really it is still lagging behind Heathrow and Gatwick in terms of the provisions it has, particularly in relation to disabled people.

“Manchester has hosted the Commonwealth Games where we had Paralympians from all over the world.

“If Manchester wants to see itself as an international venue for Paralympic Games or a destination for tourism they really need to build upon the infrastructure that will facilitate that.”

The petition has had thousands of signatures since it began in August.

Debbie Abrahams, shadow minister for disabled people and MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth said: “This is an important issue for disabled people who want to use Manchester Airport.”

She believes that the petition is bringing the issue to the public’s attention.

A spokesperson for Manchester airport said: “We continually look to improve the services offered to all our passengers and are currently working with our Special Assistance partner to review the equipment used for transferring disabled passengers onto aircraft.”  

OCS (Outsourced Client Solutions), which manages disabled facilities for passengers at Manchester Airport, refused to comment on the petition.

However this is an important issue which frightens many disabled people off taking a holiday abroad.

Many disabled people have had terrible holiday experiences, according to spokesman Jonathan Carter.

“Overcoming people’s fears that bad experiences in the past might be repeated can be a challenge,” he said.

“We would also emphasise [transfer hoists are] not the only improvement that could be made to the benefit of people with disabilities – for example the wider provision of aisle wheelchairs as standard and accessible toilets on aircraft would also be hugely beneficial.”

Mr Carter also emphasized that disabled people should be able to enjoy the same bucket list trips as the rest of us.

”When we tell people they could take an adapted cruise, go adapted skiing, scuba-dive or go on a safari with us, they’re usually shocked!”

You can view the petition to Manchester Airport here.

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