London Gatwick Airport has ordered a probe into the death of an elderly passenger who fell down an escalator after getting off an aircraft without the help of special assistance services even though he had requested a wheelchair.
Sources had originally claimed the 82-year-old victim decided to walk unaided after assistance services failed to show up but a spokesperson for the embattled airport says a helper was on hand and was assisting two other passengers when the man decided to go it alone.
British airports have been put on notice to improve the service they provide to disabled and vulnerable passengers after the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) accused them of “unacceptable” and “significant service failures”.
In a recent incident, a quadriplegic airline passenger was left abandoned on a British Airways aircraft at Gatwick Airport for an hour and a half after special assistance services failed to show up.
On Friday, Gatwick airport said an internal review had concluded it was operating with a “severe lack of staff resources” and those staff shortages would likely last through the busy summer holiday period.
However, a spokesperson denied that the tragic death of a passenger at the airport on Wednesday was in any way linked to staffing problems. Special assistance services are contracted out to a third-party company called Wilson James.
“This is a sad and tragic incident and our thoughts remain with the family of the deceased,” the airport said.
“A member of Wilson James staff was waiting when the aircraft arrived and was in the process of disembarking the three PRM (persons with reduced mobility) passengers when the incident occurred.”
“Staff shortages were not a factor in this incident as has been claimed. It is normal for one staff member to disembark three passengers who require assistance by taking them one at a time the short distance to the waiting buggy.”
The accident occurred at around 12:50 pm on Wednesday and cabin crew from easyJet were first on the scene and provided the victim with immediate first aid. Emergency services raced to the accident but paramedics declared the man dead at the scene.
EasyJet said: “A number of our cabin crew provided medical assistance to a passenger at Gatwick Airport whilst waiting for paramedics to arrive. However, the passenger sadly later passed away.”
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.