Disabled mum watches Ryanair flight leave without her after staff ‘abandon her at gate’

Sheila Cottrill was due to fly out to see her son in Spain for the first time since the pandemic, but missed her flight because there weren’t enough ‘Ambulift’ drivers to help her board

Jeremy with his mum Sheila
Jeremy with his mum Sheila

A son has told how his elderly mum missed her Ryanair flight to Spain after staff ‘failed on help her on board’.

He fears the nightmare journey over the Bank Holiday weekend will put the 87-year-old off traveling to see him again.

Sheila Cottrill arrived at Birmingham Airport three hours before her flight, heading to see her son Jeremy in Barcelona.

She was due to fly out to see her boy on Sunday, May 1, for the first time since the pandemic separated them.

The wheelchair user from Nuneaton, Warwickshire, was taken through security by assistance staff, left close to her gate and told someone would return to help her board the plane.

But she waited alone and had to watch the flight leave.

Jeremy explained how Sheila watched the plane leave without her



Upset Ms Cottrill said she was later told there had been a shortage of “Ambulift” drivers to help those with mobility problems.

Her son Jeremy told Birmingham Live : “It’s not the way to treat an elderly disabled passenger who was traveling on her own on her first holiday post-Covid situation.

“Prior to all of this she said she had lost her confidence in traveling. Now I fear this will be the last time she’ll consider doing so.

“Help is supposed to be there for disabled people. There was a total lack of care and sympathy.”

He added: “My mum who is 87 years old and disabled arranged a probably last trip to see me who lives in Spain.

“This was something which wasn’t possible during the covid pandemic.

“She arranged ‘assisted travel’ with Birmingham Airport via the Ryanair ticketing process.

“She was guided in a wheelchair through security by staff and placed at the departure gate in plenty of time for her flight.

“Eventually the flight left without her despite her sitting at the gate because there were apparently not enough“ Ambulift ”staff available.

“She was then unceremoniously basically taken back to landslide and dumped at the ‘Assisted Travel’ desk six hours after arrival at the airport.

“She was told to make her own way home, and if she wished to travel again, to make her own way back to the airport the next day where she could book another Ryanair ticket for the additional cost of £ 100.”

Ms Cottrill re-booked a flight for May 2, but then had to endure another stressful build up to leaving the airport.

She arrived three hours early again and was once again taken through security by staff.

Ms Cottrill was told help would be on hand 45 minutes before her flight. But when she heard the final call di lei she was was forced to stop a member of staff who took her to her gate di lei.

Once again there were no specialist drivers available, so she decided to leave her wheelchair behind and try to walk to the plane while being assisted by a staff member carrying her case.

“They forgot her again and she had to remind staff to take her to the gate,” Jeremy said.

“Then she had to get out of her wheelchair and ‘run’ onto the tarmac to the aircraft and climb the steps or it would have left her behind again. What’s the world coming to?”

Ms Cottrill added: “I was very upset. It has put me off ever doing it again.”

Birmingham Airport said they are investigating what went wrong.

A spokesman said: “We feel dreadful about the experience Mrs Cottrill had.

“We are looking into what happened with a view to making things right.

“We had over 110,000 customers travel through between Friday and Monday. Nearly 57,000 were departing passengers and 99.6 percent successfully caught their flight.

“We will look into the circumstances of anyone who missed their flight. We thank everyone for their patience and understanding.

“As always, our message to departing customers is: Help us help you keep queues moving by presenting at security 60 minutes before their flight time and removing any liquids, gels, pastes and electrical items from your bags before our security x-ray scanners. “

A Ryanair spokeswoman added: “Wheelchair services at Birmingham Airport are operated by OCS, who failed to assist Ms. Cottrill to her flight on time for its scheduled departure at 15:50, 1 st May.

“As a gesture of goodwill, Ryanair re-accommodated Ms. Cottrill on the next available flight from Birmingham to Barcelona the next evening, free of charge.”

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