When we go to the airport we can usually expect long queues, the odd delay and stores with overpriced products, however for one family their airport experience was significantly worse.
Michael Wells, his wife Caroline and their sons Craig and Marc were due to fly from London Gatwick to Orlando, Florida on 19th September 2012. Their journey to the U.S. to visit their other son started off with the flight being delayed by 6 hours which British Airways blamed on “technical reasons” however the delay was not an extraordinary circumstance.
Under Regulation 261 which was passed by the European Commission in 2004 and states that a passenger is entitled to compensation if their flight has been delayed by three hours or more, if they have been denied boarding or if their flight has been cancelled.
After several letters and emails, Bott and Co secured the Wells family over £1,500 in flight compensation following the delay.
Whilst a delayed flight is tolerable if not inconvenient, what happened to the family next is not. Caroline suffers from Multiple sclerosis which means that she is reliant on a wheelchair in order to get around. When the family were queuing up to board the delayed flight they were informed by an air hostess that there was no wheelchair available to help Caroline get on to the aircraft, as her main wheelchair had to go in the storage compartment.
Michael said this left him and his wife “embarrassed, because other passengers were behind [them] waiting to get on board the plane”, their son had to lift his mother up and put her over his shoulder and take her to her seat on the plane as BA staff and other passengers looked on.
Mr Wells described the incident as both “utterly degrading and upsetting” for Caroline and the family, particularly because during the flight to Orlando they were informed by a more senior air hostess that there was actually a chair available to take Caroline on to the aircraft after all but that it was in a different section of the plane.
Michael Wells went on to say that the BA staff member who said there was no chair on-board simply “couldn’t be bothered” to help him and his wife who was a nurse before falling ill with M.S.
When the Wells family booked their BA flights in July 2012 they were assured by BA that a chair would be available for Caroline and they were again reassured by the staff when they were checking in.
To make things worse, the in-flight entertainment system was faulty and didn’t work on the outbound flight which meant that for 9 hours all passengers on the flight were left with no entertainment. Mr Wells said that this was “the worse part of the flight” because passengers were left with nothing to do.
On the return flight to London on which Caroline’s nurse also travelled back to assist Michael Wells, the flight went well until the family arrived at Gatwick airport when the airline staff wheeled Mrs Wells to the doors of the plane where they had to wait for 20 minutes for the wheelchair to be brought to the doors so that Mrs Wells could transfer from the portable aircraft chair to her wheelchair.
After 20 minutes the chair was still nowhere to be seen so the Captain of the plane personally intervened to locate the whereabouts of Mrs Wells’ chair.
Once the chair had been located the Wells family made their way through the arrivals terminal when they noticed the footplates on the wheelchair were missing. Mr Wells reflects on the flight and experience by saying “after travelling with British Airways for several years, this was an awful experience which left my son in America waiting at the airport until the early hours to pick us up.”
Their whole holiday was ruined because of British Airways, who as a result of their troubles offered the family one eVoucher for £30.
Mrs Wells was house-bound for over one month whilst she waited for her replacement footplates to be delivered, something which Mr Wells described as “upsetting” for his wife.
The cost of replacing the plates would have been £250 however Exeter Mobility replaced the plates free of charge after hearing about the incident.
I was really pleased with what Bott and Co has done, I had been hitting a brick wall with BA.
BA offered the Wells family £250 each for the delayed flight – however Mr Wells felt like he was hitting a brick wall and that the £250 each was not enough, particularly because of Regulation 261 which states he should be entitled to a maximum €600. Mr Wells contacted Bott and Co Solicitors, who then took action against BA and recovered the maximum €600 (£510) per person.
Commenting on his disastrous holiday and the damages he received because of Bott and Co he said: “I was really pleased with what Bott and Co has done, I had been hitting a brick wall with BA who ruined my family’s visit to see my son in America. A lot of people don’t bother to complain and that’s why the airlines have been able to get away with treating passengers in this way for so long.”