Leon, 15 is a quadriplegic who also suffers from epilepsy and a serious lung condition. The Masons, who are from Monmouthshire, were returning from a once in a lifetime dream trip to Walt Disney World in Florida.
They had already missed their initial flight to Bristol as Leon had fallen ill with a collapsed lung.
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Passengers start to feel ill
Things started to go wrong when a strong odour on board caused two crew members to feel light-headed and pass out, and an emergency U-turn had to be made to Orlando Sanford International Airport.
Firefighters rushed on board and ordered everybody off. David explained that they would need to clear the aisle so that his son could be escorted off the plane in his wheelchair.
However, David was told to wait on the aircraft, and that he would have to carry his son.
Increasing upset at lack of help
Circumstances were so traumatic for the family that Leon himself, who cannot communicate, cried for the first time. David explains his anguish at seeing his son’s mounting distress, and how heart breaking it was as his son could not explain what was wrong.
It was a terrible experience. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for my son. He’ll never be able to go again.
Left to sleep on an airport floor
When inside the airport terminal, there was no option for paralysed Leon apart from to sleep on a cold, hard floor with only a pillow to support his head.
Coby Benson, Flight Delay Compensation Legal Manager at Bott and Co said: “The Mason family underwent a horrific ordeal whilst on holiday, only then to face further turmoil on their flight home.”
Under EU Regulations the airline was obliged to provide food, drink and overnight accommodation to all the passengers involved, and pay particular attention to any passengers with reduced mobility.
“The airport flouted these rules, forcing the family to sleep in awful conditions at the airport and fend for themselves.
“In addition to the obligatory care and assistance, the airline should also have provided each family member with compensation of €600 for the long delay they experienced.”
When the family were finally put on a safe flight to return to Bristol, one of the air stewardesses that had passed out explained how she had been particularly concerned for the Masons due to Leon’s disability.
Not even an apology
Despite the horrendous twenty-four hour delay, TUI Airways continually ignored the Mason family’s complaints. After neglecting their duty to provide the legal and compulsory ‘care and assistance’ to passengers, they did not even apologise.
David is understandably angry about their refusal to be held accountable for not accommodating his disabled son in a room overnight.
They just said it was an act of God.
He says, “They just didn’t want to know – when we were in America and when we were back home. I called them after we made it back to the UK to say we had been delayed for twenty four hours.
Threat of legal action
It is only when Bott and Co threatened legal action against TUI Airways that the company agreed to compensate the family £1,500 to cover the cost of the flights.
However, David states that this just isn’t enough: “That is just the cost of the flights. That does not over the level of discomfort and dismay that we have experienced.”
*Based on 10,211 court proceedings issued between May 2013 and February 2016.