Published on Friday, July 5, 2019

Thomas Cook to investigate 'unacceptable' treatment of disabled passenger


Thomas Cook has given a full refund and apologised to a disabled passenger who claims she was shouted and screamed at by cabin crew after the special assistance she had requested for her journey home from Turkey failed to arrive.

It has also promised to pay for repairs to passenger Jolen Duggleby's wheelchair, which was damaged during the flight from Dalaman to Newcastle.

And a spokeswoman said the company will investigate what happened at Dalaman and Newcastle airports and onboard.

Duggleby, aged 23, who has been disabled since birth, claimed Thomas Cook Airline staff reduced her to tears at the end of her first holiday with her boyfriend, 29-year-old James Lyons.

Speaking to The Independent, she said her problems began when she arrived at Dalaman Airport for flight MT491 and the special assistance she had requested failed to turn up.

She made her way to the aircraft, where she was provided with a chair that needed to be lifted onboard by two people, but one member of staff tried to lift her legs instead of the chair, causing her 'a large amount of pain' due to her previous surgeries.

She was then asked to give an account of her experience to a staff member at Dalaman airport, which Duggleby said caused her more distress.

At the end of the flight she noticed her own wheelchair had been left on the apron in the rain so asked the cabin manager to bring it to the plane to avoid any damage. Instead, Duggleby saw her chair loaded onto a luggage trolley with other equipment 'piled on top'.

She said told the Independent that due to becoming upset while talking to the cabin manager she looked away in an attempt to contain her emotions, at which point she alleges she was told 'you will look at me when I speak to you'.

As the special assistance team hadn't arrived, she tried to shuffle on her bottom off the plane, but says she was physically blocked by the cabin manager who, she claims, shouted and screamed that she was breaking health and safety rules exiting the aircraft in such a way.

When the special assistance team arrived with a wheelchair, Duggleby said the cabin manager said: "Get this lady off my plane now," in 'a very aggressive manner'.

When the couple arrived at baggage reclaim, they found that her wheelchair had been broken in several places. Repairs could cost more than £1,000, they say.

Duggleby said she left the airport 'traumatised'.

A spokesperson for Thomas Cook Airlines said: "Ms Duggleby's experience was unacceptable and we are very sorry.

"We have reassured Ms Duggleby that we are investigating what occurred with our special assistance providers at Dalaman airport and Newcastle airport and our crew, and that any necessary measures to make sure this does not happen again are taken.

"Ms Duggleby has accepted a full refund and we are working with her to either repair or replace her wheelchair." 

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