Dad 'furious' after two disabled children left stranded on plane 90 minutes after landing

The Steel family say they were on the plane for three and a half hours despite the flight only due to take 35 minutes. Credit: ITV Channel TV/Rory Steel

A dad of two disabled children has spoken out after they were left stranded on board a plane that landed at Jersey Airport for an hour and a half.

Rory Steel lives on the island with his family, who were all returning home from a holiday on Tuesday 9 May.

The British Airways flight landed in Jersey at around 8:50pm, but the Steel family were left waiting to disembark until nearly 10:30pm when wheelchairs were provided.

He told ITV News the flight was meant to be 35 minutes, but they were stuck on board for 3.5 hours.

"It was the end of a long holiday," he said. "Connections from Majorca, a few delays here and there, nothing you wouldn’t expect, but it all changed when we landed in Jersey.

"We got there, it was blowing a hooley, but the captain couldn’t get any information about where the ground crew was to offload us.

"It eventually turned out that the captain was told there was only three ground crew available for the whole of Jersey Airport last night, which was busy."

Mr Steel suggested the issue may have been down to fewer staff working as the day was a public holiday in Jersey - something Swissport denies.

He added that the family felt for the staff who were working, saying: "Our heart went out to the ground crew, you could see the embarrassment on their faces, but it wasn’t them.

"The experience we have locally is not the same as we have going elsewhere.

"It's sad, it’s your home and you’d expect as the last part of that journey, just to get off the plane, and to have that as the last worry and know that that’s the most changeable aspect, is just not good enough.

"Accessibility and disability isn’t a bolt-on in this day and age, it’s a core function of how a modern society should work."

Swissport has been the only ground handling agent at Jersey Airport since December 2022, when the company won the British Airways contract previously held by Airline Services.

A spokesperson for Swissport said: "We are sincerely sorry for the delay experienced by this passenger.

"A number of flights arriving at the same time, and poor weather, exacerbated some resource challenges, but we are working with our airline partners and the airport to continuously improve turnaround times."

Swissport took over as British Airways' Jersey ground-handling agent in December 2022. Credit: PA

Ports of Jersey, which operates the island's airport, said it would be launching a full investigation into what happened.

In a statement, CEO Matt Thomas said: "We sincerely apologise to those passengers arriving at Jersey Airport yesterday who did not experience acceptable service levels.

"We are deeply disappointed by [the] feedback that we have received and both we and our airline partners are committed to delivering the highest levels of service."

Ports of Jersey CEO, Matt Thomas, has promised a full investigation into the incident. Credit: ITV Channel

He added: "We have launched an investigation to understand what happened, and the matter has been escalated to Swissport, who deliver ground handling on behalf of our airlines.

"However, as a matter of urgency, we are reviewing the contingency and resilience plans of our key business partners as we ramp up volumes for the summer season."

Travel expert Simon Calder spoke to ITV News from Tel Aviv. He explained what rights travellers with mobility issues have.

"Everybody has the right to travel with dignity and to have great experiences in wonderful places around the world," he said.

"But all too often I am hearing that people who have mobility issues, people who are in particular disabled and need a wheelchair, are simply not getting the service that not just morally they should have, but which the law demands.

"These things are happening way too often and it’s time that the Civil Aviation Authority really started to clamp down.

Travel expert Simon Calder spoke to ITV Channel TV's Clare Burton

He continued: "At the moment, we’re in this ridiculous situation where if my flight is three hours late, I’m entitled to hundreds of pounds in compensation, yet, if you are a disabled passenger who has the indignity and the stress of being left on an aircraft for over an hour, you get at the moment, no compensation at all.

"If your wheelchair, which might cost thousands of pounds is damaged beyond repair, again, you’re very limited in what you’re going to get.

"So, quite rightly, disability campaigners are saying it is absolutely time that the airports, that the airlines, and that the ground handlers are able to deliver a proper service to less mobile passengers absolutely every time."

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