The Civil Aviation Authority launched a formal investigation into an incident involving a disabled child, and allegations that BAA breached EU 1107/2006.
It is the CAA's Chair, Dame Deirdre Hutton, to confirm the opening of the probe into BAA's actions. "I can assure you that the CAA will fully investigate the incident that occurred on the 10th April [at Heathrow airport]," Dame Hutton told Reduced Mobility Rights.
On April 10, eight year old L.C., who has reduced mobility because of cerebral palsy, was left without his pre booked assistance upon arriving at London Heathrow on a flight from Switzerland.
Upon leaving the aircraft, L.C. was met by a London Heathrow Airport valet. However, the BAA service person could not assist the child because of the unsuitability of the wheelchair on hand.
The BAA employee tried to source the only available child fit wheelchair without success. He then offered to carry the disabled child on the adult's wheelchair provided his parents would sign a waiver of liability first. Parents declined the illegal offer, leading to a stalemate between them and Heathrow staff.
After about one hour, L.C.'s personal wheelchair was delivered at the gate, allowing the disabled child in distress to continue his journey through Heathrow airport.
"In this instance, the adult accompanying the passenger requested that the passenger's own wheelchair be brought to the aircraft. The passenger's wheelchair had not been identified at the departure airport as being required to be sent immediately to the aircraft doors, and so was sent to the baggage hall," a spokesperson for BAA told Skyport Heathrow Magazine. “An employee of a company Heathrow Airport engages to provide assistance to passengers with reduced mobility attended the aircraft and provided assistance throughout."
However, the child's parents dispute BAA's account. They provided the CAA with evidence the personal wheelchair had been properly tagged to be delivered at the aircraft doors. Further evidence and eyewitness accounts show that the child was left standing at the gate for nearly half an hour, before being directed to seats available in a waiting area nearby.
Despite BAA reassurances, not all airlines deliver personal wheelchairs and other mobility devices at the gate. EU regulation assigns BAA the responsibility of handling all necessary mobility equipment.
This was the sixth incident of this kind involving L.C. in a 20 month period. CAA management met with BAA and its contracted parties last September to discuss the numerous service failures LC experienced at Heathrow. BAA reassured the CAA that these would not be repeated.
The latest fiasco triggered the Civil Aviation Authority to launch the formal investigation into the events of April the 10th, to determine if BAA is in violation of EU 1107/2006, the regulation protecting the rights of disabled passengers and passengers with reduced mobility.