BBC’s Frank Gardner stuck on Heathrow plane for second time

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    Frank Gardner
    Image caption Frank Gardner said the incident at Heathrow Airport was “so absurd it is actually funny”

    The BBC’s Frank Gardner has been left stranded on a plane at Heathrow Airport for a second time in six months.

    The security correspondent is a wheelchair user and had to wait 30 minutes to disembark from his flight.

    He said the delay was caused because staff locked themselves in the lift which was supposed to get him to the ground.

    He added: “It’s not deliberate. But unless people like me make a fuss about it, it’s not going to be addressed.”

    A Heathrow spokesperson said the airport had “apologised to Mr Gardner for the technical fault” and accepted it “fell short of our standards”.

    The delay for assistance comes after it emerged another wheelchair user was not allowed to board a flight at Belfast International Airport. He was told his wheelchair repair kit could be used to “dismantle the plane”.

    Gardner was travelling on a British Airways flight from Krakow, Poland, to London’s Heathrow Terminal 5 on Monday evening.

    The plane arrived early, but was not scheduled to park at a jetty, which allows passengers to walk off a flight without the use of steps.

    “Able-bodied passengers were able to walk down the steps to the buses,” Gardner said.

    “I had to wait for a high-lift, which turned up reasonably soon, but the high-lift operators couldn’t get it to meet the door of the plane.”

    Cabin crew were “very apologetic”, he added. “They were courteous, they were calm, they were professional.”

    But after 30 minutes, the ground staff had locked themselves in the lift with Gardner’s wheelchair. The journalist tweeted: “This is so absurd it is actually funny.”

    The wheelchair had to be dismantled, passed through the lift window, and then reassembled before he was helped down the stairs.

    “I’m not cross about it,” Gardner said.

    “But it’s just a reminder that Heathrow isn’t there yet when it comes to mobility-impaired passengers.”

    In March, Gardner was left on a plane at Heathrow for nearly two hours after staff said they had lost his wheelchair.

    It had been taken to the terminal, rather than the plane door, leaving him stranded.

    He said the airport had taken his feedback from the incident in March on board.

    On Tuesday a Heathrow spokesperson added: “Whilst this was an isolated technical incident, unrelated to Mr Gardner’s previous experience, we accept both fell short of our standards.”

    They added that changes made to their special assistance service had been “recognised as ‘good’ by the regulator, and we continue to invest and make the necessary improvements” required.

    Gardner said there had been an “inverse correlation” to how helpful people people were.

    “In a country like Cambodia, which has almost no facilities, everyone’s happy to help. I’ve been piggy-backed up the steps to a plane in a pouring rainstorm by the pilot.

    “The flip side of that is Frankfurt Airport where I was there in transit, the ground staff had not turned up to help me.

    “I could see my wheelchair sitting up at the cockpit. So I used my upper body to transfer myself up seven rows, zigzagging – which hurt like hell – all the way to get to my wheelchair.”

    Gardner has used a wheelchair since he was shot six times by militants while reporting in Saudi Arabia, in 2004.

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