My wheelchair-bound wife and I travelled on our annual holiday visit, to stay at the Son Matias Beach Hotel, Palma Nova, booked with Airtours but on a Air Europa flight. On arrival, October 1, 2000, the pilot and co-pilot and two others strapped my wife to a two-wheel trolley and, despite my objections on safety grounds, carried her down the steps of the aircraft. We were then bussed to the terminal and left to make our own way to the carousel and to a waiting Airtours rep. I lodged a complaint with the rep, and again with the rep at the hotel.
Five days into our holiday we read your article which added to my wife's distresss, thinking that she would be man-handled up the aircraft steps again. I spent the rest of the holiday assuring her that bad publicity would prevent that. Day of departure October 15, I got an early call and was in the airport at 3am, one hour before the check-in was manned at 4am. We were refused our request for front seats as per travel documents and were given row 10. I protested that my wife could not walk that distance and we needed assistance. I was told that they did not have Ambulifts and to wait for two and a half hours while everyone else was checked through. Eventually we were bussed to the aircraft on the tarmac and in complete darkness 10 minutes before the scheduled flight time. Once again my wife was strapped onto a trolley and carried up the steps where my wife collapsed with an angina attack. I pointed out that safety should be paramount in handling passengers, but was ignored. I have since made representations to Airtours twice and through the travel agents - to no avail. Airtours refuse to acknowledge that we were treated in the way I have described and say they are not responsible for airport staff. I am writing to you (and hoping you will forgive me for doing so) in the hope that through you and your leading local travel agent, Angela Price, some enquiries could be made to ascertain that Ambulifts are available for disabled tourists. I cannot get these assurances from Airtours, so cannot book for this year's holiday for fear of my wife suffering the same traumatic treatment as previously mentioned. You will, I am sure, appreciate my concern due to the fact that my wife is 19 stone, 68 years of age and I am 72. I did, when arguing with the supervisor, state that I thought they were discriminating against wheelchair-bound people, and in general discouraging disabled visitors, who are the life blood of the tourist industry of the island, especially in the winter months. She (the supervisor) said: you British always break the rules. When I asked what rules I was breaking, she walked away. While I agree that perhaps some abuse the system, it was obvious to anyone that my wife could not be in that category. We have found that the hotel is ideal for us, the staff are excellent, and the Spanish are so very friendly and helpful, that it is a shame it is marred by the indifference of the airport staff. As we approached Birmingham airport on our return home, I asked a crew member to radio for an Ambulift. It was waiting for us and we were escorted through to the carousel and the man who met us even got our cases and pushed the trolley through to the exit.
Thank you for taking time to read this plea. We would be most grateful if as a result of your efforts on our behalf, we could get some assurance of assistance and Ambulift so that we can book for this year.
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