Wheelchair Athlete denied boarding on Eastern Airways Flight

Added 30/04/2010

Disabled man in airport

Richie Powell is a 39-year-old wheelchair athlete who travels the world to take part in wheelchair races - he is one of the top wheelchair athletes in Britain.

He competed in the 1992 Paralympic Games in Barcelona, the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Canada and the 1998 World Championship. So he’s used to travelling by plane.

But when he arrived at Bristol airport to board a plane to take him to a race in Scotland, he was denied boarding because he "couldn’t walk". Mr Powell offered to haul himself up the steps but the airline refused on safety grounds.

Naturally, the wheelchair athlete was outraged by the discrimination he faced, but he was also baffled because he flew with Eastern Airways last year with no disruption to his journey.

Mr Powell informed the airline that he was in a wheelchair before he arrived at the airport, so he couldn’t understand what the problem was.

However, the flight booking was made by Aberdeen Council, and a spokesman for Eastern Airways said: "The booking that was made on behalf of Mr Powell highlighted that he needed wheelchair assistance but was able to climb the aircraft steps unaided. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case and Mr Powell was refused boarding on safety grounds."

In order to get to the race in Scotland, Mr Powell had to arrange an alternative flight with Easyjet.

If you have a wheelchair and you wish to travel by air, to avoid being denied boarding, make sure you contact the airline before you book your flight to find out if they can accommodate you and your wheelchair. Ensure that you specify whether or not you can walk or climb steps. Be very clear about your needs.

Also, if you are travelling abroad, buy travel insurance and declare your disability to your insurer. Goodtogoinsurance.com specialises in providing travel insurance policies for people with a range of disabilities.