Air France apologises to MND sufferer Gordon Aikman over wheelchair row

Gordon Aikman
Gordon Aikman
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AN airline has apologised after refusing to fly a disabled campaigner to Paris on his honeymoon because his wheelchair was “too big” for the plane.

Air France said it would offer compensation to Motor Neurone Disease patient Gordon Aikman, who was left furious after being forced to rearrange his travel plans with an alternative carrier.

Mr Aikman, 30, a former Labour press officer and Better Together policy chief, has campaigned relentlessly for better support for people with MND and raised £400,000 for research into the condition since being diagnosed in 2014.

He married partner Joe Pike, a TV journalist, at a ceremony in Edinburgh last year.

They booked to fly with Air France to Paris earlier this week on a four-day honeymoon.

But after prolonged attempts to sort out arrangements for his electric wheelchair, he was eventually told he could not take the chair because it was too big.

Mr Aikman, who lives in Meadowbank, said at the time: “Without my wheelchair I’m just useless. But they wouldn’t go to someone else and say, ‘I’m sorry your legs are too big - you can’t come on this flight’.”

He said his treatment by Air France had been “appalling” and the airline had made no attempt to resolve the issue or offer him any alternative.

READ MORE: Gordon Aikman slams Air France over wheelchair snub

He rebooked with easyJet and was able to fly to Paris with Joe and his carer on Tuesday.

Now Air France has issued an apology and promised a refund and compensation.

In a statement, the airline said: “Air France fully understands Mr Aikman’s frustration on this matter. We are extremely sorry and appreciate this must have been upsetting for Mr Aikman and his travel companions. Air France is committed to giving all passengers the best care and service.

“We regret that it was not possible to accept the transportation of Mr Aikman’s wheelchair due to the dimensions exceeding the capacity of the aircraft.

“Air France had been in correspondence with the passenger trying to find a solution by possibly reducing the height of the wheelchair. However, due to the maximum acceptable height being 71cm this was not possible. Regretfully Air France was not able to convey this information to Mr Aikman quickly enough.

“An apology email will be sent to Mr Aikman and his travelling companion. All tickets and additional baggage purchased are being refunded and compensation will be offered as a gesture of goodwill.”

MND is a degenerative disease which affects the nerves controlling the muscles. There is no cure.

Mr Aikman’s campaigning won a pledge from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to double the number of specialist MND nurses in Scotland from six to 12 and to pay them from the public purse.

And last month there was another victory when the Scottish Government agreed to give people who are at risk of losing their voice as a result of a medical condition the right to access voice equipment on the NHS.

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