A wheelchair-user has launched a legal action against Manchester Airport after he was twice left feeling “distressed and humiliated” by how he was treated on journeys to and from a family holiday.
Quamer Khaliq, from Ashton-under-Lyne, had to threaten to call the fire brigade after he was left on the aircraft with his 11-year-old daughter for two hours, on their return to Manchester from the US.
While he was waiting for assistance – in growing discomfort and distress – staff were forced to work around him as they cleaned the plane.
After the cleaning staff left, trainee cabin crew arrived for a training exercise while he was still waiting for assistance to leave the plane.
Khaliq (pictured) was left waiting on both the outward journey from the airport and when he returned to Manchester with his daughter from their trip to Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
He claims the airport breached its duties to provide disabled passengers with assistance under access to air travel regulations.
He is now awaiting a first hearing in the high court for his case against Manchester Airport.
On the outward flight, on 29 May last year, the assistance he had booked was not waiting at the departure gate, and when two members of staff arrived they said they were not trained to transfer him to a manual wheelchair that could be used to take him onto the aircraft.
After waiting another 40 minutes, untrained members of the cabin crew transferred him themselves without using a hoist, a process that caused him “pain, discomfort and embarrassment”.
On his return to Manchester, on 13 June, he was left stranded on the plane with his daughter for two hours.
Even when assistance finally arrived – after he had threatened to call 999 – they had no wheelchair or hoist and he was left for another half an hour.
When they returned with an aisle wheelchair he was again manually transferred into an “aisle” wheelchair inappropriately.
His own electric wheelchair was also badly damaged during the return journey and he has had to borrow an NHS wheelchair which he cannot use outdoors.
Both flights were with Thomas Cook Airlines, which collapsed three months later.
Khaliq’s treatment by Manchester Airport contrasts with how he was treated by Orlando airport, whose staff transferred him to and from his wheelchair using a hoist.
He said: “This trip should have been a special holiday for me and my daughter but was instead overshadowed by the humiliating and distressing way in which I was treated by the airport.
“There should be no excuses for not providing the support and equipment required to meet the needs of disabled passengers.”
His solicitor, Kate Egerton, from Leigh Day, said: “It is not acceptable to leave disabled passengers waiting for hours to embark and disembark aircraft, and to not use trained staff and the appropriate equipment; it is humiliating and unsafe.
“Mr Khaliq argues that the way he was treated was unlawful and he hopes that by bringing this case Manchester Airport will improve their assistance provisions for all disabled passengers.”
Manchester Airport – which is nearly two-thirds owned by Greater Manchester’s 10 local authorities – was warned last year by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of its continuing concerns about the services and facilities provided to assist disabled passengers.
Although the airport had improved on its rating of “poor” in 2017-18, the CAA warned then that events since the end of March 2019 had “stalled” its progress.
Khaliq’s two flights had taken place on 29 May and 13 June 2019.
In April 2019, the airport had begun using a new provider of assistance services, ABM Aviation, and the CAA reported how – during its first three months – “performance was poor, with high numbers of passengers waiting for unacceptable lengths of time to receive assistance when arriving on inbound flights”.
A Manchester Airport spokesperson said: “We are aware of a claim that has been brought on behalf of Mr Khaliq, which is subject to an ongoing legal process.
“The claim relates to the level of special assistance service that Mr Khaliq received while at the airport, as well as pain and discomfort it is alleged he sustained while being transferred to his aircraft seat by Thomas Cook cabin crew, and damage allegedly caused to his wheelchair during his return journey.
“Airlines, in this case Thomas Cook, are responsible for any items carried in transit.
“It would be inappropriate to comment further on the facts of the case at this stage.
“However, it is always our aim to ensure every passenger receives the best possible service at the airport, and we never like to hear that one of our customers is unhappy with their experience when travelling through Manchester.”
A spokesperson for ABM Aviation said: “Given the legal nature of this case, we are unfortunately not able to give a comment at this time.”
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