Belfast Telegraph

Friday 27 November 2015

Blind friends 'disgusted' after airline says they are not allowed to fly alone


Published 03/05/2013


Two blind friends who were refused flights because the airline said they couldn't perform "safety-related actions" have said they were "disgusted" by the decision.

Lauren Wigglesworth, from Urmston in Greater Manchester, and Stephen Sherwood, from Hereford, planned to fly to Majorca, Spain, in May.


Before the flight, they requested help putting on life jackets, and Thomson Holidays told them they couldn't fly.


The company said all passengers must be able to put on a life jacket and oxygen mask without help.


After returning their special assistance forms, the pair were given two options: to take a sighted person to assist them, or cancel the holiday.


Ms Wigglesworth, 27, said: "I was disgusted with Thomson. I felt very let down.


"Taking someone with me defeats the object of going abroad for the first time without parents and we can't really afford to take anybody with us."


When the holiday was booked, she said a Thomson assistant reassured her mother a disability team would help the pair while onboard.


Ms Wigglesworth's mother Dawn said: "They said they could look after Lauren from the minute she got on the plane at Manchester Airport to the minute she landed back home, and all her needs would be catered for."


In a statement, Thomson said: "We are sorry to hear of Ms Wigglesworth's disappointment at not being able to travel to Majorca."


The company said the pair had informed it they were unable to carry out "safety-related actions" including putting on a life jacket without help, and that the requirements were part of "the Department of Transport's Code of Practice that has been confirmed by the UK Civil Aviation Authority, to which Thomson and every other UK airline must adhere".


"Unfortunately, as Ms Wigglesworth and [Mr Sherwood] are not able to complete these without assistance, we are not able to allow them to travel unaccompanied.


"We have therefore offered Ms Wigglesworth a full refund or the option to add a passenger to her booking who could assist her and [Mr Sherwood] on their trip."


Natalie Doig, campaigns officer for the Royal National Institute of Blind People, said flight regulations did not stipulate that blind people needed to be accompanied.


She said: "(The regulations) basically say that any blind or partially sighted person has the right to board a plane and fly on that aeroplane anywhere in Europe.


"They may need an air steward just to show them exactly where the life jacket is underneath their seat... and just describe to them how to put it on.


"There must be hundreds of blind or partially sighted people flying every day in this country. I really think this makes a nonsense of the regulations."

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