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Six disabled plane passengers left stranded at airport

Disabled plane passengers from Northern Ireland were left stranded at a Scottish airport at the weekend after equipment and assistance they needed to board a flight were not available in time for take-off.

The group of six, which included an 85-year old woman, several wheelchair-bound people and an adult with Down's syndrome, were told that the easyJet flight from Edinburgh to Belfast on Saturday night could not wait for them after a lifting machine to assist the passengers on board did not arrive in time for the plane doors closing.

Derrick McCourt from Ballymena is the husband of one of the disabled passengers.

He said that following a delay on the incoming flight, passengers with mobility problems were told that they would be aided on board by porters who would be available when the plane finally arrived.

However, he has claimed that when the promised assistance did not show up on time, able-bodied passengers were boarded when the jet landed and then the pilot refused to wait for the disabled people to be helped aboard and took off for Belfast.

It was the final Edinburgh to Belfast flight that evening.

Mr McCourt said he was still upset. "The pilot simply decided that he would not wait. We were simply dumped - left behind like dirt. I'm disgusted.

"We didn't know where we were going to go, where we were going to stay and how we were going to get home."

The passengers were given overnight accommodation and flown home on the first available flight the next day.

A spokeswoman for easyJet said the issue was beyond the airline's control and that the responsibility lay with airport management.

She added that delaying the plane further could have resulted in a lost slot and over 130 passengers and crew having to remain in Scotland overnight.

"EasyJet can confirm that six passengers with reduced mobility were unable to board flight EZY 490 from Edinburgh to Belfast on August 27, 2011 as the necessary assistance was unavailable at time of boarding," she said.

"All assistance at airports remains the responsibility of the airport management and its contractual agents."

Edinburgh Airport and wheelchair company THS were not available for comment.

Belfast Telegraph