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British Airways, rude and discriminating towards disabled!!!

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British Airways, rude and discriminating towards disabled!!!

I used to fly British Airways, am still a silver card member frequent flyer. Because of my condition, I have a neurological disorder, I need to use a wheelchair with a high back and necksupport. I have a lightweight (=17 kg)wheelchair that folds up and fits perfectly into the vertical storage closets because it was designed for that. But BA personnel often refused to put my wheelchair in there, I suspect since BA personnel like to use these closets for their own luggage. They then proceed to put my wheelchair into the hold, which would be perfectly fine with me if they would get it out and back to me when I get of the plane.

This is always a problem at Heathrow!

They then try to put me in one of the regular wheelchairs, which hase absolutely no use to me. I am not able to keep up my head, it will go backwards and it will cause me a lot of pain then and for days to come.

Strangely when booking (I always fly business) and details were discussed they always promised me that there should be no problem.

The last time I flew with them it was so bad that I made a complaint, since then BA refuses to take me telling me that they cannot accommodate me!

Apparently when they have to do something extra they are unwilling to help. Even when you are a silver card.

I am an Air France and American Airlines frequent flyer now. It's not always a smooth ride but both Airlines are always willing to find a solution when a problem arises... and they have never, ever been rude to me.(and I even use my electric wheelchair now)

I should think that a big airline like BA would have a different policy towards dissabled. They are apparently still in the middle ages when it comes to that.

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11. Re: British Airways, rude and discriminating towards disabled!!!

mfuwe: Why did BA never refuse service before the complaint was made, altough the service I needed was made very clear, by phone, fax and e-mail???

TravellerPlus: The stuff that was in the closets looked very much like Tumi carry-ons...and where carried off by crew after we landed!!

Ok I did not explain what was so bad, so here we go:

-I was left in a very cold corridor with my partner after disembarking at Heathrow. All the crew had left and we were told that we had to wait there for assistance to get us to our Brussels flight. After waiting almost an hour my partner went to get help...which came 25 min. later...they apparently were not informed about us and anyway BA crew should not have left us behind unattended!!

-I was yelled at (=high volume) when I refused to get in a "normal" wheelchair, even after explaining calmly why I needed my own, showing faxes and e-mail!!!

-Cabine crew repeatedly refused to put my wheelchair into the closet, even in the large closets on the international flights, when there was plenty of space!

Luckily for us the captains often came to help us when my partner asked for them. But why refuse in the first place and the negative attitude?

-Crewmembers made faces when they saw me coming on board (I am slightly spastic).

-I was told that groundpersonnal could not bring up my wheelchair because it was too heavy (17kg!!!).

If so, why not use a high lift, which is what other airliners do with my electric wheelchair (175kg!!!).


I then was told everything would change with terminal 5, because every gate would have an elevator. But when I recently informed about a flight after the opening of terminal 5, first they told me there would be no problem and then left a message on my voice-mail that there would be not enough time between my Brussels flight and my international flight to accomodate me(4hours in between, duh...)

We can go into legal or non-legal discussions but isn't it actually an ethical one? Don't you think that a big airline like BA with all the means they have should at least be forthcoming?

There is apparently a very negative policy towards disabled travellers with the crews of BA and I do wonder if the CEO and all BA personal would be happy with this kind of treatment the day they or their beloved ones end up in a wheelchair!

They seem to forget that we are all human!

Cherry Hill, NJ
Destination Expert
for Philadelphia
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12. Re: British Airways, rude and discriminating towards disabled!!!

As I said before, ethically they were very wrong, but generally speaking, corporations don't care about ethics, just the legalities.

I posted this on another thread. In a nutshell, BA doesn't really care if you come back or not. If you want to go from X to Y in a reasonable amount of time, you're options are limited, and they know it.

I'll take your situation to the extreme (tho this implies conscious intent which I don't think is there, its more of a corporate group think).

Let's say you decide to take your business to Air France. Where's the harm to BA? They'll have realistically minimal trouble if any selling the seat you would have occupied on your next flight to someone else. And if that someone did not share your needs, then it actually costs them less incrementally for the other person to fly.

Add into that staff that have been completely demoralized by cuts and layoffs while execs make large bonuses, and you can see that there's not much incentive on any end to provide more than the basic required service.

Unfortunately, free market economics do not, can not, and will not apply to airlines because of the inherent limits on expansion and options (a new airline can't just start up and say I'm flying US to UK! easily).

I want to point out that travellers share a LOT of the blame for this situation (not the specific one, the general one). For years now, we have said quite clearly as a group that we care about one thing. Price. Forget the service, forget the food, save me $5 and I'll fly with you (for evidence, look on this forum and others for how many people ask what is the CHEAPEST way to get from X to Y). Until the travelling public as a whole starts voting with their wallets, this is what you need to expect...

Vancouver, Canada
Destination Expert
for London
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56,871 posts
14 reviews
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13. Re: British Airways, rude and discriminating towards disabled!!!

From some of the things mentioned in your post today, I think your concerns are with BAA rather than with BA. The airport operator (BAA) should have had ground ops in place and a suitable chair for your purposes.

'Cabine crew repeatedly refused to put my wheelchair into the closets...international flights....' - had you requested this service in advance?

'Crewmembers made faces...' subjective, and although it may be so, it may not be. I have found BA cabin crew to be nothing less than professional, no matter what the circumstances.

Without having heard about the events of specific times and dates, and hearing the views of BA's staff, your views (to which you are entitled without question, and you have every right to express them) are a bit one-sided.

Rather than refusing to fly with BA, you may wish to write the company with your concerns and suggestions you may have of how things could have been handled better. Without suggestions of how to improve, your letter will very likely trigger a cut and paste response, which will be of little use to neither you nor the airline.

Isle of Man, United...
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14. Re: British Airways, rude and discriminating towards disabled!!!


I was going to 'stay out' from now on but since you ask a direct question I will answer.

<mfuwe: Why did BA never refuse service before the complaint was made, altough the service I needed was made very clear, by phone, fax and e-mail???>

Sadly I do not know why they did this and you must direct the question at BA. There could be many reasons. Only they will know the true one! If in fact there is one! It could be that once they realised they could not easily accommodate your needs they took the easy way out, or 'soft option', and declined service. Simply moving to AA did not force them to address your problem, it took the burden (I mean this nicely) away.

Like Loonbeam says. They will simply sell the seat to someone else. That is how life is on this Planet in this selfish age. When people demand 'cheap' seats they get cheap service. Look at the policy of the low cost carriers. They 'cherry pick' the hale and hearty, no checked luggage,no frills pax away from the mainstream carriers and standards at the latter must lower to stay in business serving those who the LCC turn away.

Belfast, United...
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15. Re: British Airways, rude and discriminating towards disabled!!!


I rarely travel with BA as they are my least favourite airline, but I did for time travel as a passenger in a wheelchair and received excellent service from the airlines I used.

Sky Europe actually phoned me from Bratislava to make sure that they had the full details of my dissability so that their service was tailored to my needs. Even to the point of having an ambulance waiting to take me to the plane, Easyjet were fine to as were Estonian Air, and after reading this post I am so glad none of my trips involved Bl..dy Awful.


Travelling The World
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for Alghero, Melton Mowbray, Elora
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16. Re: British Airways, rude and discriminating towards disabled!!!

>Unfortunatly, there is perhaps not enough wide spread public understanding or support to force BA to deal with such an issue. If they were prejudice to a larger group of people because of religion for example, the outcry would be so much more overwhelming for BA and they would have to back track.

That's not necessarily so. Ryanair got its comeuppance both for the way it treated a single passenger in a wheelchair and for throwing a group of blind passengers off a plane (among other instances of not giving a damn about their self-loading cargo). They lost court cases and were forced to pay loads in compensation and provide the service that they are legally required to do (although of course they started charging for it!). So one person can make a difference but only if, like Ryanair, the airline is blatantly breaking the law.

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17. Re: British Airways, rude and discriminating towards disabled!!!

I refer back to the Disability Discrimination Act (1995). Section 21(1) reads:

"21 1) Where a provider of services has a practice, policy or procedure which makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled persons to make use of a service which he provides, or is prepared to provide, to other members of the public, it is his duty to take such steps as it is reasonable, in all the circumstances of the case, for him to have to take in order to change that practice, policy or procedure so that it no longer has that effect".

Whilst I am no expert, and no lawyer, it would seem to me that in this case, it would be BA's responsibility to demonstrate that the changes proposed by Marieke are not reasonable. Admittedly, we only have one side of the story here, but nothing I've read leads me to believe that BA would be unreasonably affected by making these changes.

18. Re: British Airways, rude and discriminating towards disabled!!!

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