Eighty-two year old Dennis Larder, who was injured after the unsafe release of an airport wheelchair brakes, is suing London Heathrow Airport.
"I am an ex IAL pensioner and have been a regular long-distance air traveller for over 50 years," Dennis A Larder said in a letter to Sir Martin F Broughton, deputy Chairman of British Airways parent company IAG. "I have had years of personal experience of running overseas civil and military airport facilities. Nowhere have I seen such atrocious service as exemplified by this recent fiasco."
Mr Larder is a frequent flyer who has been travelling across the world for the past six decades. The UK citizen worked in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Abu Dhabi, Fiji, Canada and Saudi Arabia.
On 12 October Mr Larder was traveling from Dubai to Manchester via London Heathrow Airport. Upon arriving at Heathrow he learned his flight to Manchester had been cancelled.
“In the British Airways Club World lounge while awaiting the replacement for our cancelled flight, I was injured whilst being left unaided to struggle up from the wheelchair," Mr Larder said.
According to the man, the wheelchair helper had either not applied the wheelchair brakes or had used one with faulty brakes. “As I tried to rise from the chair, it unexpectedly shot backwards, striking the attendant who had moved away,” Larder said. “The wheelchair came to a sudden stop when it hit the attendant, which caused me to fall backwards into the chair seat.” Mr Larder’s lower back struck the chair causing the injury. Three months on, the man is still undergoing therapy.
"At Heathrow Terminal 5 all wheelchair attendants complained about overwork and stress caused by their employers," the man said. "I suspect that staff unrest was a factor in the injury caused to me."
This website’s investigation into wages of Heathrow airport wheelchair helpers may explain why the UK tops the EU list for disabled passengers’ complaints. The research found that Heathrow wheelchair helpers’ average pay is lower than the living wage.
“The airport operator is responsible for providing Special Assistance at the airport. At Heathrow, OmniServ provides this service for all airlines on behalf of Heathrow Limited,” British Airways told Mr Larder.
In reply to the man’s complaint, Heathrow told him they are not required to give a one-to-one assistance service. The assistance provided is based on an assessment of the information provided and a review of the most efficient use of resources.
"BA and Heathrow rely upon the fragmentation the air transport industry has deliberately established for itself to frustrate and deny members of the public, such as myself, justice. There is apparently no public service body on which the public may call for help in the resolution of redress issues such as the foregoing. The CAA, responsible for regulating the industry, accepts no responsibility to control the parties or to mediate in cases like mine," Dennis Larder said. "I have been and am exhausted and further damaged by their attitudes, but am now determined somehow to find the strength to carry on and cause them to be brought to account."
“We take the safety of all of our passengers very seriously and we are discussing this claim with OmniServ our PRM service partner,” a spokesperson for Heathrow airport told Reduced Mobility Rights.