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Disabled man takes legal action against Manchester Airport for humiliating and distressing treatment

A disabled man who threatened to call the fire brigade after being left without assistance on a plane for more than two hours after landing is taking legal action against Manchester Airport.

Posted on 02 June 2020

Quamer Khaliq, aged 44, from Ashton Under Lyne, was left feeling distressed and humiliated by his treatment by the airport on journeys to and from a family holiday in Orlando, Florida, in 2019. He has now commenced legal proceedings in the County Court and is awaiting a first hearing date.
Mr Khaliq has spinal muscular atrophy and requires a wheelchair at all times. He claims that Manchester Airport breached its legal responsibility under the Civil Aviation (Access to Air Travel for Disabled Persons and Persons with Reduced Mobility) Regulations 2014, to provide the necessary assistance to disabled passengers.
Specifically, the Regulations require airports to provide assistance to passengers with disabilities free of charge to ensure that they have equal access to air travel and do not experience discrimination. However, Mr Khaliq did not receive the assistance he needed to board and disembark the aircraft at Manchester Airport in a safe and dignified manner.
He should have been transferred from his own motorised wheelchair, which did not fit on the aircraft, into his seat on the plane using a mobile hoist. However, he experienced significant delays, untrained staff and inappropriate and humiliating transfers, causing him pain and discomfort, and which have left him feeling that he would not have the confidence to fly again. Sadly our client’s experience is far from unique; according to a survey by Which? and the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers (RiDC) published in January 2020, around a quarter those who had used special assistance at an airport said that they were dissatisfied.
On the outbound flight on 29th May 2019, there was no assistance available at the departure gate despite the airport being notified of his needs. Two members of airport staff eventually arrived but they refused to transfer him from his own wheelchair to an ‘aisle’ wheelchair (which fits down the aisle of an aircraft) on the grounds that they were not trained in manual handling operations. He waited a further 40 minutes for assistance, during which time all of the other passengers boarded, and was eventually transferred to the smaller wheelchair by members of the cabin crew who were not trained in manual handling. There was no hoist used and he was inappropriately manually transferred into and out of the smaller wheelchair, in front of other passengers, causing his pain, discomfort and embarrassment.
When returning to Manchester on 13th June 2019 Mr Khaliq was left on the aircraft with his daughter, who was 11 years old, for two hours after all the other passengers had departed. In this time cleaners cleaned the aircraft around him and a training session for cabin crew took place.
Throughout this time Mr Khaliq was left in discomfort and distress. It was only when he threatened to call the fire brigade that an assistance team arrived but they had no wheelchair or hoist with them and left again for a further half an hour. When they finally returned with an aisle wheelchair he was once again inappropriately manually transferred into the chair.
Mr Khaliq’s own motorised wheelchair was also significantly damaged during the return journey and he has been forced to borrow an NHS wheelchair which is not suitable for outdoor use.
By contrast when leaving Orlando airport Mr Khaliq was transferred to and from his wheelchair using a hoist.
Mr Khaliq said:
“Despite informing Manchester Airport of my assistance needs the airport failed to provide me with the appropriate assistance. This trip should have been a special holiday for me and my daughter but was instead overshadowed by the humiliating and distressing way in which I was treated by the airport. There should be no excuses for not providing the support and equipment required to meet the needs of disabled passengers.”
Kate Egerton, solicitor at law firm Leigh Day, said:
“Our client believes that Manchester Airport clearly breached their responsibility to provide assistance to disabled passengers. Disabled passengers should be treated with respect and dignity, and that includes airports providing the appropriate assistance for their needs. It is not acceptable to leave disabled passengers waiting for hours to embark and disembark aircraft, and to not use trained staff and the appropriate equipment; it is humiliating and unsafe. Mr Khaliq argues that the way he was treated was unlawful and he hopes that by bringing this case Manchester Airport will improve their assistance provisions for all disabled passengers.”