Woman stranded on plane at Gatwick for 90 minutes 'frustrated' at treatment of disabled passengers

Wheelchair user Victoria Bignell speaks to ITV Meridian reporter Rachel Hepworth about the challenges facing disabled people using planes.

A disabled woman who was stranded on an empty passenger plane for more than ninety minutes says the airline industry must drastically improve services for disabled people.

Gatwick Airport has apologised to Victoria Brignell, who was left on the plane in a wheelchair on Saturday (5 June).

Victoria, who is paralysed from the neck down, said the whole experience was "frustrating and stressful."

"In the end I was stuck on the plane for an hour and thirty five minutes", she told ITV News Meridan.

"Obviously the plane couldn't take off again until I'd been taken off, so it delayed the next flight too.

"It's really important that the air industry improves the service it gives disabled people.

"They need to plan their staffing properly so that there are people able to help.

"It's not rocket science."

Victoria's friend posted a photograph on social media, saying the delay was 'totally unacceptable'.

Cabin crew eventually helped to carry Victoria off the plane, because assistance staff from the airport had failed to arrive.

She thanked everyone for sharing the image but said it showed "appalling service to people with a disability."

The picture prompted other people to share their stories, as many said it wasn't an isolated incident for people with disabilities who face challenges accessing public spaces.

Paralympic gold medallist Sophie Christiansen wrote: "Thanks for being an ally and sharing the discrimination we face daily.

"If everyone could speak up every time they see a step to get in to a restaurant, no subtitles on videos, etc, we might get somewhere."

Others cited a Tweet from BBC journalist Frank Gardner who found himself in a similar situation at Heathrow last month.

Victoria said that the single most helpful thing the aviation industry could do was to design planes so that disabled people could use their own wheelchairs on board.

"If I could travel in my wheelchair it would not only be more comfortable," she said, "but it would also avoid the need for people to come on the plane to help carry me off.

"I think in this day and age it should be perfectly possible to design planes in a way that allows disabled people to travel in their wheelchairs.

"I find it very nerve wracking traveling by plane because I have the constant worry that it might go missing or get damaged in transit."

In a statement Gatwick airport said: “The treatment received at Gatwick Airport was not acceptable and I would like to offer our sincere apologies to Victoria. 

"This incident has been escalated and Gatwick and Wilson James, our assistance provider, are investigating how this happened as a matter of urgency.”

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