Wheelchair-user Esther Leighton had a “phenomenal” holiday to Egypt “ruined by EasyJet” after she claims the low-cost airline destroyed her travel wheelchair, and are refusing to fix or replace, citing the Montreal Convention.

Esther wrote on Facebook that EasyJet not only broke her wheelchair but forced her to board the plane at Hurghada last, when disabled passengers are usually the first to board, which she called “totally humiliating.”

Esther was then dismayed to discover that her wheelchair, which her assistant had carefully wrapped in plastic before the flight, had been subject to tremendous force, which she suspects was due to someone trying to remove it from the plastic forcibly, which had resulted in the backrest and handles of her chair being becoming bent.

In her Facebook post explaining the situation, Esther writes: “The chair is an Icon A1. It’s adjustable and custom to my needs. The specialist seating I need used to fit on it, but now it’s so bent it’s unusable.

“I can’t travel anywhere, and when my power chair is having work done on it or something, I’ve no mobility at all as this chair is my travel/backup one. It had served me so well – enabling me to travel across the world, go diving with amazing fish at a disabled diving school, go out and go in the sea… and yet Easyjet couldn’t get it through an airport without destroying it.”

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She added that she’s done everything correctly – including reporting the incident before leaving the airport and taking photographs of the damage, and while EasyJet agree the wheelchair is broken and beyond repair, they consider it baggage per the Montreal Convention and will only pay a maximum of £1,200, despite the chair costing Esther around £5,000.

The Montreal Convention is a treaty deposited by the International Civil Aviation Organisation which covers the liability for air carriers who are proven to have damaged personal belongings which were in their care. It stipulates that the maximum amount an airline can compensate a passenger for lost luggage is £1,200. This limit to compensation regularly creates an issue for disabled air passengers, whose mobility equipment is considered “baggage” by airlines, but the price of said equipment regularly exceeds £1,200.

An EasyJet spokesperson told UNITE: “We are sorry Ms Leighton’s wheelchair was damaged and know how crucial it is for customers to feel confident their wheelchair will be well cared for when travelling with us.

“We understand how difficult this situation has been for Ms Leighton and have been in touch with her to apologise and request some further information so we are able to resolve to her satisfaction.

“EasyJet set up ESAAG, its Special Assistance Advisory Group, in 2012 so it could provide guidance and advice to the airline on the services it provides to passengers who require special assistance. The group is chaired by Lord David Blunkett and is made up of experts in disability issues and accessible travel. EasyJet carries over 500,000 passengers who needed special assistance every year. Last year the customer satisfaction amongst this group of passengers was 83% last year, 12 percentage points above all passengers.”

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Source: Facebook
Image: Flickr/Jesse Seipel

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