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Airport blunders leave terminally

ill man stuck on plane

    By Gina Hobbs  

PARALYSED Jason Liversidge who has advanced Motor Neurone Disease was left in agony on a plane at Manchester Airport after his specialist wheelchair was broken and pre-booked specialist equipment was not provided by airport officials.

Jason, 41, of Rise near Skirlaugh, was travelling home from a family holiday in Turkey with his wife Liz and their two daughters Poppy and Lilly accompanied by his carer.

The family had chosen Manchester Airport because it provides an Eagle hoist needed to support Jason to get on the plane.

“We had it in writing that staff would provide the hoist but during the outbound flight we were told it was in Terminal One and we were at Terminal Two, so the plane had to be delayed for an hour for staff to bring it over. We were told it was a communication error and it wouldn’t happen again by OCS Assist staff who were responsible for providing the hoist. Even the company TUI we’d booked with had made sure the hoist was booked,” explained Jason’s wife Liz.

A series of blunders continued after they returned from their break when, for a second time, no hoist was provided to get Jason off the aeroplane.

“We were told the only person who could operate it has gone home and it wouldn’t fit on the type of plane we were on,” said Liz.

The situation got worse as, according to Liz, staff who work for ground service provider Swissport at Manchester Airport dropped Jason’s £5,000 wheelchair after trying to carry it to the plane. It meant after a fourhour 17-minute flight, Jason was left in agony on the plane for another two hours.

“I was horrified to see ground staff carrying the chair. They’d dismantled the back of it and taken out metal rods and pins, and wires were hanging out of the wheels. There was no headrest and its foot supports were bent. It is an expensive piece of equipment as it’s a neurological wheelchair and basically it wasn’t useable,” said Liz. “The duty manager from Swissport spoke to us and was very dismissive and said it wasn’t in her remit and told us ‘Can’t you just push it,’ and basically denied staff had dropped the chair.”

Eventually Liz managed to get the headrest back on and her five-year-old daughter Poppy spotted some loose wires hanging down.

With the help of the captain from the TUI flight they managed to make a temporary repair so the wheelchair could move. However, due to the lack of a hoist Jason was taken off the plane by three staff members who puthim on a small chair to carry him off.

“It was totally degrading for Jason. He’d been sat on that plane for almost seven hours and was in agony at the point. He can’t move at all – he has to be turned in bed to prevent pressure sores – and this was an awful experience. Jason’s health has deteriorated. Now he has advanced Motor Neurone Disease, so this is probably our last family holiday abroad,” said Liz.

The family was told a Swissport representative would meet them at passport control so they could log the incident but were told by another staff member to fill out an online form as no one was available.

“Disabled people should not be treated as second class citizens and should have full access to goods and services like able-bodied people. Living with a severely disabled person has opened my eyes to how shocking things are for disabled people and how they are treated. I shall be making a complaint to OCS Assist and Swissport and am contacting my MP,” said Liz.

A Swissport spokesperson said: “We’re very sorry to hear of this passenger’s experience and apologise to the family. We fully understand their frustration and are following up with the third party provider to understand what went wrong.” The Gazette contacted OCS Assist for a comment, but OCS had not replied at the time of going to press.

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