Disabled flyers left at airport

Betty and Derrick McCourt were left stranded at Edinburgh Airport
Betty and Derrick McCourt were left stranded at Edinburgh Airport
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A PROBE has been launched at Edinburgh Airport after six disabled people were left stranded at the terminal as their flight took off without them.

The passengers, many of whom were elderly, said they had been told only to board the easyJet flight to Belfast once able-bodied travellers had taken their seats but were “gobsmacked” when the queue disappeared and an airline rep came up to tell them the flight had gone.

Airport chiefs have expressed “disappointment” at the blunder and vowed a “full and urgent investigation” into the incident.

It is understood that among the passengers left behind were an elderly stroke victim and an adult with Down’s Syndrome.

Northern Ireland pensioner Derrick McCourt had been travelling with his wife Betty, who walks with a cane and suffers osteroporosis.

The pair, who are both in their late-60s, said the blunder left them feeling “abandoned” and “discriminated against”.

“We were one of the first at the gate with my wife in a wheelchair but the flight had been delayed by an hour,” said Mr McCourt. “Then a queue formed at the gate and an easyJet rep said to us disabled passengers: ‘Don’t worry your seats have been secured for you and people will be here to wheel you on shortly’.

“We waited and waiting and the queue disappeared. Ten minutes later the same guy gets on the phone and comes back all red-faced saying: ‘I’m very sorry but your bags have been unloaded and the plane’s left.’

“I was gobsmacked. There were another two pairs of disabled passengers as well and we were sitting there like idiots.

“It was total discrimination,” said Mr McCourt, who was returning from a week-long trip to visit his son. “I can’t tell you why we were abandoned because no one has been able to tell us why it happened.”

Mr McCourt’s son, also called Derrick, drove to the airport to try to resolve the mess.

“It was a disgrace,” he said. “A conscious decision was made leave to all the disabled passengers behind and it’s not a great PR move.”

An easyJet spokesman said passengers were unable to catch the flight because “necessary assistance was unavailable at time of boarding”. He added: “All assistance at airports remains the responsibility of the airport management and its contractual agents.

“We offered the disrupted passengers overnight accommodation, and rerouted them on to the next flight.”

”While this event was outside the airline’s control, easyJet apologises for any inconvenience caused.”

A spokesman for Edinburgh Airport said: “Edinburgh Airport is very disappointed at the treatment of these passengers.

“We are conducting a full and urgent investigation with the organisations responsible to understand better what happened and to ensure it does not happen again.”

david.mccann@edinburghnews.com