An accessibility rights activist and blogger has claimed that she was forced to drag herself along the aisle of a Boeing 737 jet after cabin crew refused to help her get to the onboard lavatory.
Jennie Berry from Hartlepool is a seasoned traveller who often shares TikTok and Instagram videos of her experiences in everyday situations as a disabled person who is paralysed from the waist down.
In a now-viral video that has already been viewed more than five million times on TikTok, Berry alleged that one of the flight attendants on a recent flight told her that she should wear a nappy rather than being helped to use the lavatory.
The incident happened when Berry jetted off on holiday with her partner and other family members on a flight operated by Spanish charter airline Albastar. Things started off fine after Berry was driven to the aircraft and then wheeled onboard on a special chair designed to fit down the narrow aisle of a plane.
But at this point, things quickly started to unravel.
Berry says the airline first refused to seat her near the front of the aircraft and close to a lavatory despite seats being available. and then told her that the aircraft wasn’t equipped with an onboard wheelchair should she need to go to the toilet.
A crew member allegedly claimed Berry could wear a nappy to avoid a mid-flight trip to the lavatory, but it was already too late. When Berry asked for help to use the lavatory, cabin crew allegedly just looked on.
A family member films Berry as she drags herself towards the front of the aircraft, using the seats on either side of her to hoist herself backwards. Cabin crew can be seen in the background continuing to serve snacks from the trolley as if nothing is going on.
Under European regulations that have been in force since 2006, airlines are legally required to provide assistance in moving disabled people to an onboard lavatory if required.
Many airlines have onboard wheelchairs permanently stored on the aircraft to assist disabled people because it is otherwise physically very hard to help move someone along the aisle of a packed aircraft.
Airlines are also legally required to make “all reasonable efforts” to provide seating that meets the needs of the disabled person – in this case, a seat closer to the lavatory may have fulfilled this requirement, although isn’t required by law.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Albastar said the airline wanted to “express its sincere apologies for the event that recently took place on one of our flights.”
“Our main concern is the safety and comfort of all our passengers on each and every flight we operate,” the statement continued. “We are working to investigate the incident to ensure that this isolated incident does not happen again on any of our aircraft.”
The spokesperson denied that any member of staff asked Jennie Berry to wear a nappy and noted that aisle wheelchairs are not a mandatory or “even recommended” piece of equipment that airlines should carry.
Berry simply hopes that the aviation industry makes changes soon to improve the experience for disabled people. As she puts it: “when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go”.
This article has been updated with a statement and additional information from Albastar.
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.