Trip Reports & Reviews

AIRPORT ASSISTANCE: Flying with a Disability – easyJet vs Flybe

Noel

Noel Philips

Lots of you have asked me to create a video showing the airport assistance that’s available to disabled or elderly passengers. I’ve made this video to show the experience of flying with a disability in the UK, comparing two of the UK’s biggest airlines – easyJet and Flybe.

For a short trip you’re often much better parking at the railway station near to Birmingham than the airport. The price for 24 hours is just £12, vs the £41 the airport charge for the same period in the short stay car park, or £37 in the mid stay. It’s connected to the terminal building with a monorail that takes just a couple of minutes to take you right into the terminal.

Booking assistance with easyJet was really simple. You just ticked a box when booking, and the assistance was booked.

Pretty soon the assistance turned up and we were whisked straight through fast track security to the departure lounge.

Wheelchair passengers get pushed through the gate at the side of the checkpoint and searched manually.

About half an hour before the flight another wheelchair arrived to whisk us down to the gate.

Unfortunately the lift was out of order which meant going the long way round to the gate.

The world became an even better place soon after as our aircraft landed after its flight inbound from Belfast.

Before long the assistance guy came back and took us out to the aircraft.

We were being boarded by an ambulift today. These are used on larger aircraft when there’s no jetbridge, and lift the passengers up to the door of the aircraft.

Unfortunately our seats today were right at the back of the aircraft, and the ambulift boards from the front – which meant that we had to go against the flow of passengers boarding from the back doors. This made it pretty diffcult for Rach who had to stand for long periods while the passengers at the back boarded.

Seats at the front are more expensive to book which seems a little discriminatory to those with disabilities, who have to either pay up or face a long walk to the back of the plane.

We were soon on our way out to runway 33, and waved goodbye to the beautiful autumn morning.

We got some good views of the Isle of Man as we crossed the Irish Sea, and soon started our approach and landing into a cloudy Belfast International.

The Ambulift was pretty quick to turn up and we made our way to the front of the aircraft to disembark.

It’s about a 30 minute drive from Belfast International to Belfast City, and we took a ride through some of the parts of the city most affected by the troubles of just a few years ago.

Pretty soon we were at Belfast City and ready for our flight back to Birmingham.

Once again we were whisked straight through fast track to the departure lounge.

Flybe’s assistance is booked in a similar way to easyJet. It’s great that passengers needing assistance are given free seat reservations on Flybe, meaning that a passenger needing assistance can be certain of sitting with their carer without having to pay for the seat allocation.

Our aircraft arrived and we were soon whisked down to the gate.

Unfortunately there was no ambulift for us onto the Dash 8. They said we could have one if we really needed it but there were only a handful of steps onto the Dash 8, and our concern was that we’d either end up holding up other passengers or having to fight our way through the aircraft like we did on easyJet.

As soon as the aircraft was ready to board we were taken out to the steps, in the weather that had taken a turn for the worst.

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The weather at Belfast really was dreadful, and there was a lot of flooding on the taxiways and runway.

Once we entered the cloud we didn’t leave it again until final approach at Birmingham.

After we landed in Birmingham we had to wait a while for the assistance to turn up.

Again, we had to use the steps to get off the aircraft as there was no ambulift.

The assistance took us through to the arrivals hall, and we were able to use the wheelchair to get to the station car park.