A holidaymaker has told how fellow passengers were forced to step in and help him carry his wheelchair-bound wife down six flights of stairs when both lifts broke down.
Colin and Dawn Kennedy, from Belfast, were stuck on the third floor of Manchester Airport’s Terminal Two after visiting a lounge for coffee before their flight.
The stranded couple faced a race against time to board the plane to Florida for Dawn’s 60th birthday celebrations.
Colin said staff “did nothing to help” when a lift was out of order already – and a second lift broke down after they had reached the third floor.
Distressed Dawn even offered to ‘bump’ herself down the stairs to avoid missing their flight, before other holidaymakers rushed to their aid.
Colin, 58, told the Manchester Evening News: “ When we were notified that boarding had commenced, we attempted to get to the second floor, obviously using the elevators.
“Unfortunately, there are only two.
“One was marked ‘out of order’ and after waiting 15 minutes for the only other working elevator, we realized it also had broken down, which obviously must have occurred after we reached the third floor.
“Airport staff were informed however no one assisted, or advised, how we should get to the departure level.”
The couple were booked on an 11am Aer Lingus flight to Florida on December 27 for a holiday to celebrate Dawn’s 60th birthday.
Dawn, 60, cannot walk or stand because of a degenerative neurological condition.
“The departure time was rapidly approaching and we had no way of getting, safely, from the third to the second floor,” Colin added.
“Eventually, several passengers saw the distress we were in and helped me to carry my wife and her electric wheelchair down six flights of stairs to reach the departure level.
“The airport did nothing to help. It was very distressing for my wife and they did nothing.
“My wife said she would bump herself down the stairs before the three other holidaymakers offered to help.”
Colin, a charity chief executive, said they contacted the lounge to ask them to alert the departure gate.
He said they even walked into shops on the level to ask if they had a service lift they could use to get down.
Colin said they used the airport’s yellow customer assistance points for passengers with reduced mobility, but ‘no one was interested’.
“All we got was ‘yes, we know the lift is broken. It’s been reported’.
“Nobody was interested in assisting us and this just should not happen in this day and age.
“It’s just the poor customer service and no one really caring.
“It is very difficult for people with disabilities but, thankfully, things have moved on greatly over the years. But this was disappointing.”
Colin wrote to the airport to complain.
The airport said in response it had reviewed access arrangements for passengers with restricted movement in the terminal and changes would be made.
“In the unlikely event of a recurrence, we are making alternative, accessible routes to lower-level gates available,” a spokesman told the MEN
They also said facility management company ABM was contracted to ‘ensure the provision of assistance to persons with reduced mobility’.
The airport said: “To ensure that your feedback can be addressed in full, I have passed your feedback to ABM. Once a full investigation has been conducted, ABM will contact you with a response to your feedback within 10 business days.
“At Manchester Airport, we continually review our processes and work with our partners to deliver an improved and more enjoyable experience for our customers.
“As part of this process, I can advise that your feedback will form a part of our performance management process with ABM as we review and refresh the processes that we undertake in this part of the customer journey.”
Colin criticized the ‘corporate response’ and said: “I followed this up with the additional correspondence but to date, have not even had the courtesy of a response.
“My complaint is that no one from Manchester Airport reacted to the problem, which was no elevators were available to transport anyone. Not just those in wheelchairs, but also families with prams and buggies.
“To transfer responsibility for the failure to assist individuals both able bodied and disabled to ABM is wrong. I hope other people with disability are not treated in this way.”
The couple made their flight on time.
A spokesperson for Manchester Airport said: “We regret that the Kennedys did not enjoy their experience at Manchester Airport.
“Due to mechanical issues, two lifts in Terminal Two departures were out of service at the same time for a brief period on the morning of 27 December.
“Staff notified maintenance teams as soon as they became aware of this and one of the lifts was returned to service within an hour of an engineer attending. Both lifts are now back in service.
“Following feedback from the Kennedys we have reviewed access arrangements for passengers with restricted movement in Terminal Two. In the unlikely event of a recurrence, we are making alternative, accessible routes to lower-level gates available.
“Like airports across the UK, we employ a third party company to provide special assistance to passengers with restricted movement, to ensure they have the smoothest journey.
“Our provider is ABM and we’d always urge passengers to book this service in advance, which is done through their airline.”
Staff in T2 working for third parties like retailers or restaurants have now been briefed on how to help passengers in a situation like it.
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