On Friday 26th October I was working with the BBC in Glasgow so late Wednesday afternoon I was called by the production coordinator to discuss my travel arrangements. We agreed that it would be quicker and more affordable to fly, so they sent over a list of possible flight options. At this point I chose an Easyjet flight as the times coordinated perfectly. This is when everything started to go wrong. We were told that because I could not walk to an exit unaided, or climb a flight of stairs, I would not be allowed to fly. They claim that in order for me to be allowed to fly I would have to have a companion with me. So I have no other option than to get the train, who will at least let me travel unaccompanied.
The irony of this is incredible, given the report that I did the previous day. We had looked into the difficulties that disabled people were fancying whilst actually on board an aircraft, but at this rate I can’t even get on the plane! the anger and frustration I feel at this situation is hard to articulate. What has happened here, like with many other examples of disability discrimination, is that I have had my ability to choose taken away from me. I am utterly powerless to their policy.
When I tweeted bout my situation last night:
@sophmorg: Please can you retweet : @easyjet won’t let me fly as I am disabled and unable to get to an exit or climb stairs. It’s discrimination.
I was inundated with messages of support and disbelief. Dame Tanni Grey Thompson also got in touch and vented her fury over Easyjet’s treatment for her during a flight with her daughter.
There are so many problems with air travel its hard to know where to start. But I think what’s more important are the solutions, to which there are several. I was able to talk with the head of customer services who apologised and “accepted my point” that Easyjet seem to have a different set of guideline than other airlines. I asked if perhaps the airline could provide concessions for the companion who we HAVE to travel with for example but little was offered in reply.
It’s time that disabled people make the rules under which we have to live. It’s wrong that the policies do not understand our basic human rights. I currently feel a mixture of fury and sadness, that despite all my efforts to live my life as a normal human being, I am unable to, and like so many others, I am having my limitations defined for me, my risks evaluated for me and my choices decided for me. Thankfully Channel 4 are behind me so I have a voice, which I very much intend to use. .
Tomorrow I will be meeting David Blunkett at the House of Commons, who chairs an Independant advisory board for Easyjet. I hope to ask him about how they interpret the E.U legislation on how disabled people and people with reduced mobility can access air travel, and why they have their particular policies. Tis interview will be filmed as a follow up to the Channel 4 news item, so I’ll link to that as soon as its ready.
In the meantime stay up to date via twitter @sophmorg