Paralysed woman, 45, was stuck on plane at Gatwick for 90 minutes

Woman, 45, paralysed from the neck down was stuck on a plane at Gatwick for 90 minutes after a wheelchair ‘promptly’ arrived to pick her up… but no staff were available to push it

  • Victoria Brignell, 45. was returning home following holiday in Malta on Saturday
  • A wheelchair was readied for her upon her flight landing at Gatwick Airport
  • But no staff turn up to assist her and she was instead left waiting for 95 minutes
  • Passengers for following flight were also delayed as they could not board plane 

A woman paralysed from the neck down was stuck on a plane at Gatwick Airport for more than 90 minutes because no staff turned up to push her wheelchair .

Victoria Brignell, 45, was returning home following a holiday in Malta on Saturday when a wheelchair was readied for her upon arrival.

But staff from Gatwick contractors Wilson James did not turn up to assist her and she was instead left waiting for an hour and 35 minutes.

Airport staff have a responsibility to help people with disabilities on and off planes – and Gatwick has offered its sincere apologies and described the delay as ‘unacceptable’.

Ms Brignell, from Shepherd’s Bush, west London, said: ‘Shortly after landing the BA airline staff came up to me and said they’re sorry but the people who are meant to help get me off the plane would not be there for 50 minutes.

‘Time passed and I was then told it would be another half an hour on top of that. In the end I was waiting an hour and 35 minutes.

‘I am paralysed from the neck down so I can’t use my arms or legs. To get off a plane I need two people to lift me from the airplane seat into an aisle chair, which is a specially designed narrow wheelchair to push me along the aisle off the plane, and lift me into my wheelchair waiting outside.

Victoria Brignell, 45, had to wait more than 90 minutes to be assisted off a British Airways flight when Gatwick staff did not arrive 

It comes amid scenes of ‘absolute carnage’ at the West Sussex airport in recent days due to staffing shortages and a surge in travel demand

‘My wheelchair arrived promptly, but the people who were supposed to help me get off the plane didn’t turn up – they were busy elsewhere.’

She had been unable to use the toilet during the three-hour flight and her three carers were unable to go off duty until she returned home more than 90 minutes later than planned.

Other passengers waiting to board the following flight were also delayed as they could not board the aircraft until Ms Brignell had been assisted off.

She added: ‘I have been very nervous about travelling by plane because I had heard so many horror stories about people’s chairs going missing, but I went for the first time just before the pandemic so this was the second time I’d gone abroad and my fourth flight.’

It was ultimately British Airways staff who were able to get her off the plane, despite it not being their responsibility.

She praised the staff, who provided her with drinks while she waited for Gatwick staff to arrive.

Ms Brignell said she has since received an apology from Gatwick via Twitter, where it asked her get in touch with them directly. She plans to submit an official complaint.

She continued: ‘I just feel in 2022 people shouldn’t be stuck on a plane for that long. UK airports need to get their act together and plan their staffing appropriately.

‘I booked the help two months in advance – I didn’t just turn up – and I reminded them two weeks before as well.’

A spokesperson for Gatwick said: ‘The treatment received at Gatwick Airport was unacceptable and I would like to offer our sincere apologies to Victoria.

Customers queue at the Vueling and EasyJet check in desks at Gatwick Airport amid lots of cancellations last week

‘This incident has been escalated and Gatwick and Wilson James, our assistance provider, are investigating how this happened as a matter of urgency.’

And a statement from Wilson James added: ‘We are deeply disappointed to have delivered a poor service on this occasion.

‘While the aviation sector in particular is struggling with well-documented pressures, Ms Brignell’s experience is unacceptable and falls far below our values and aims as a service provider; the Wilson James team extends our sincere apologies to her.

‘We will be reaching out to her privately to offer our apologies, and Wilson James and the airport are investigating the incident as a matter of priority.’

It comes as passengers described scenes at Gatwick as ‘absolute carnage’ on Sunday.

Pictures emerged of holidaymakers sprawled across the airport’s floor amid baggage reclaim delays.

Industry chiefs have pointed the finger at mass layoffs during the pandemic which saw staff let go because of the collapse in demand for travel during the various lockdowns. 

Airlines are now struggling to rehire workers previously let go, leading to a shortage of security staff, ground handlers and check-in staff.

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