BAA Fiasco: Disabled Child Abandoned at Heathrow Airport
- Written by Roberto Castiglioni
An eight year old abandoned without assistance is BAA's latest fiasco involving disabled children at London Heathrow.
On Tuesday, eight year old L.C., who has reduced mobility because of cerebral palsy, was abandoned without assistance upon arriving at London Heathrow on a flight from Zurich, Switzerland.
The child, who also travels with his own mobility device, had pre-booked wheelchair assistance several days before his flight.
Upon leaving the airplane, L.C. was met by a BAA employee with an adult wheelchair. At London Heathrow, children cannot be carried on adults’ wheelchairs because of liability and insurance issues.
Unlike in most other airports across the world, BAA's adult wheelchairs at Heathrow are not fitted with safety features such as safety belts; thus they cannot be used to transport children.
"We very rarely receive a request which details that assistance is for a child, rather the notification is a standard request," BAA's service provider OmniServ Chairman Ernie Patterson explains. “We become aware that the assistance is for a child only when the passenger arrives."
The BAA employee meeting L.C. tried to source the only available child fit wheelchair without success. He then offered to transport 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 BAA staff.
The situation was resolved after 50 minutes, as L.C.'s personal wheelchair was delivered at the gate.
Despite BAA reassurances, not all airlines deliver personal wheelchairs and other mobility devices at the gate. EU regulation assigns BAA the duty of handling all necessary mobility equipment.
Airlines docking at gates serviced by Menzies Aviation at London Heathrow advise disabled passengers that mobility devices will only be repatriated at the baggage carousel area.
This was the sixth incident of this kind involving L.C. in an 18 month period.
Despite the evidence, BAA maintains one child suitable wheelchair per terminal is sufficient. "We do not consider that there is any need for Omniserv to adapt any of their [adult] wheelchairs. London Heathrow has enough wheelchairs for children," Mark Hicks, BAA Flight Connections and PRM Manager at London Heathrow said.
The latest BAA fiasco at Heathrow has been referred to the Civil Aviation Authority, along the call to launch a formal investigation on the events of 10 April 2012.