easyJet Loses Teen Passenger’s Wheelchair Ruining Family’s Holiday

A teenage passenger’s family holiday to Paris was ruined after airline easyJet “lost” his wheelchair and failed to supply a replacement, leaving the teen stranded. The youngster’s mother has called on airlines to do more to prevent such incidents from happening and to make efforts to better accommodate passengers’ mobility aids directly on board.

easyJet aircraft runs along runway.
easyJet severely let down a young passenger and his family © Felix Gottwald

easyJet Loses Teen Passenger’s Wheelchair Passenger And His Family Severely Let Down

Seventeen-year-old disabled passenger Michael Cloke was left stranded during a family trip to Paris last week when budget airline easyJet “lost” his wheelchair, made no arrangements to supply a replacement and failed to promptly and appropriately communicate with his family.

Michael and his family travelled from Edinburgh Airport (EDI), Scotland, to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), France, with easyJet on Tuesday 27th June to enjoy a family break in the French capital.

Upon their arrival in Paris, Michael and his family were informed that the airline had been unable to locate his wheelchair, which had supposedly been checked into the hold in Edinburgh. Shockingly, neither easyJet’s staff nor airport employees were able to provide a replacement wheelchair for Michael to use. As a result, Michael’s mother Gillian Cloke was forced to spend hours of the family’s holiday on the phone to easyJet in order to find out where her son’s wheelchair was and what alternative arrangements could be made until it was found.

When the family attempted to report the wheelchair missing, however, they were faced with automated systems insultingly asking them to fill in a “lost baggage” claims form and provide a description of the “lost bag” and its contents. They were eventually contacted by an easyJet customer service representative, who promised that someone from the airline would be in touch to assist the family. The family received no further correspondence until Friday, only for the airline to inform them that it had still not located Michael’s wheelchair.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the airline said:

“We are very sorry that Michael was left without his wheelchair following his recent flight from Edinburgh to Paris”.

“We know how important it is for customers to feel confident that items like this will be well cared for when travelling with us so we are investigating with our ground handling partners at Edinburgh and Paris and with the airport’s special assistance provider”.

“We are doing all possible to try and locate it and fully understand the inconvenience this will have caused them which we are very sorry for”.

“We will also be offering a gesture of goodwill to apologise for their experience and the delay in reuniting Michael with his wheelchair”.

Michael Cloke - Passenger whose wheelchair was lost
Michael’s family were forced to contact wheelchair hire companies whilst in Paris © Gillian Cloke

A Glimmer Of Hope

Michael suffers from a medical condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a birth defect that causes him to suffer from severe fatigue, among other symptoms. The condition means that his wheelchair is a vital lifeline in his daily life.

easyJet’s failure to supply a replacement wheelchair left Michael and his family with no option but to personally contact wheelchair rental agencies in Paris when attempting to visit attractions in the city. Despite their personal endeavours to source a wheelchair, which proved to be successful at some locations, the family sadly had to cancel their planned trips to the Louvre and the Palace of Versailles due to accessibility issues.

In more positive news, after Michael’s mother Gillian shared the family’s plight on BBC Breakfast on Sunday morning, John Knipe, managing director of Bann Mobility, a mobility equipment supplier based in Northern Ireland, revealed that his company would be donating a wheelchair to Michael and making provisions for it to arrive by the time the family arrives fly home from Paris. An incredibly grateful Ms. Cloke was left speechless by the kind gesture.

Exciting New Wheelchair-Friendly Airline Seating
Innovative wheelchair-friendly seating prototypes are currently in development © PriestmanGoode

The Future Of Wheelchair-Friendly Seating

At the beginning of June, Delta Air Lines’ subsidiary Delta Flight Products unveiled an exciting new wheelchair-friendly seating prototype at the Aircraft Interiors Expo, which promises to revolutionise travel for wheelchair users. The prototype (shown above) enables a conventional airline seat to be folded away to allow for a wheelchair to be slotted into place, thus allowing passengers to remain in their wheelchairs throughout their flight.

Although the prototype still faces a lengthy period of testing and certification, it is anticipated that it will ultimately be adopted by airlines, with major carriers and manufacturers already expressing their interest. In turn, wheelchair users will no longer have to face the stress and anxiety that their mobility aids may be damaged, lost or even left behind when travelling, and it is hoped that such design innovations will give passengers, such as Michael, and their families both peace of mind and confidence to travel.

In the meantime, airlines must make a concerted effort to take due care when transporting passengers’ mobility aids and communicate with passengers in a timely manner and with compassion and empathy.

Have you or your family/friends ever had mobility aids lost or damaged on a flight? In your opinion, what can airlines do to better assist disabled and less mobile passengers? Let us know in the comments.

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Rachel Dunster
Rachel Dunster
Aviation Reporter