Edinburgh Airport baggage handlers break 9-year-old boy's wheelchair

A DISABLED boy was left without his wheelchair for five weeks '“ after it was broken by baggage handlers at Edinburgh Airport.

Friday, 14th October 2016, 7:36 am
Updated Tuesday, 25th October 2016, 3:51 pm
The Ratcliff family on a previous family holiday Picture; contributed

The family of nine-year-old Harvey Ratcliff – who suffers from an extremely rare genetic condition and is also severely autistic – blasted their treatment following a flight back to Edinburgh from Malaga.

It comes after a report branded Edinburgh Airport the worst in the UK for disabled people or those with reduced mobility.

The Civil Aviation Authority graded the hub “poor” – the only airport in the country to achieve the lowest rating.

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Harvey's broken wheelchair. after the family flew into Edinburgh airprt. Picture; contributed

Harvey’s specially-built wheelchair had been carefully placed in the plane’s hold during a three-hour Jet2 flight from Malaga on Monday, ­August 29.

But by the time it came around on the luggage carousel at Edinburgh, the chassis had been broken, the front castors buckled and the front foot plates snapped off, with the broken segments being simply piled on the seat.

Mum Fiona said: “His wheelchair came out on the luggage belt with the broken parts on top. That’s the bit that really annoyed me. It’s just disgusting.

“It just seems so farcical, the whole situation.

Harvey's broken wheelchair. after the family flew into Edinburgh airprt. Picture; contributed

“It’s a piece of medical equipment which we have put in their trust. You expect them to take care of it.”

She said staff then failed to ­offer a replacement wheelchair – flouting rules laid down under the Montreal Convention for air travel.

The 37-year-old, who is from Cowdenbeath but now lives in Manchester, added: “Under the Montreal Convention, they are supposed to offer us something, though we appreciate it’s not on a like-for-like basis.

“We were five weeks without a wheelchair. Harvey did not know why he couldn’t go out. He’s too big for us to carry – he’s nearly ten.

“We don’t feel like they have understood the distress it caused us – or more importantly, the distress it caused Harvey. We really have struggled. I can’t stress how frustrating it’s been.

“I think the scenario has been dealt with very unprofessionally with no care or consideration to a young boy with complex needs.”

Harvey was born with Phelan-McDermid Syndrome (PMS), a genetic condition that causes developmental delay and only affects around 130 families in the UK and Ireland.

His wheelchair was so badly damaged that NHS chiefs judged it “irrepairable” – and spent £559.20 ordering a new one.

Fiona said Jet2 eventually provided the family with £500 compensation, as well as covering the costs of the new wheelchair.

And while accepting that “accidents happen”, she said she was not happy with the way the incident was dealt with. She was also upset that no apology was offered at the time.

Airport bosses say that baggage handlers are paid for by the airlines, while services for “persons with reduced mobility” at the terminal are provided by OmniServ, an independent contractor.

A spokesman for OmniServ said it was “very sorry to hear about the problems Mrs Ratcliff and her son experienced on their return flight”, adding: “We understand that her son’s wheelchair was damaged during the baggage handling process.”

However, he said OmniServ was not informed of the issue until the next day, when the Ratcliff family were already back home in Manchester.

He added: “Had we known immediately when they landed at Edinburgh, we would have been able to provide a suitable loan wheelchair there and then.”

A Jet2 spokeswoman said: “We have been in touch with Fiona to offer a full apology for any distress or inconvenience caused by this isolated incident, and we have agreed compensation with her.”