London: A man who dragged himself through a terminal at Luton airport after his self-propelling wheelchair was left behind on a flight is suing the airport.
Justin Levene, a paraplegic man, arrived at the airport in 2017 and found his custom-made, self-propelling wheelchair had been left behind.
The international wheelchair athlete told the BBC airport staff had offered to push him through the terminal on a high-backed wheelchair, which he rejected as degrading.
He said staff also insisted that he would need to be strapped down, which he feared could lead to a pressure sore. Levene requested a motorised buggy, but Luton airport did not have one.
Instead, he felt he had no choice but to drag himself across the floor for hundreds of metres.
At the end of the incident, which was captured on video, Levene lifted himself onto a baggage trolley, and pushed himself along to his taxi.
He is now suing the airport, saying the incident left him feeling “humiliated” and that staff failed to “have any empathy for what was happening”.
“There should be appropriate equipment in every single airport,” he told the BBC. “If something does happen, no one should be put in the position that they are forced to crawl through the airport or drag themselves along the floor.”
Levene received support from Frank Gardner, a BBC journalist who has also spoken of his experiences being stranded at airports.
On the @levine2001 airport wheelchair story, I don’t understand how in 2018 he cd be separated from his own chair? I raised a stink about this practice earlier this year at @HeathrowAirport and they resolved it by changing the rules. End of.— Frank Gardner (@FrankRGardner) November 3, 2018
Levene’s lawyer, Sue Willman, told the BBC the case was not about money, but “access to justice”.
Luton airport defended its actions, saying Levene had declined all offers of help. “On discovering that Mr Levene’s flight had arrived without his wheelchair, our teams worked hard to find a solution, offering Mr Levene an assisted wheelchair as a temporary replacement,” it said in a statement.
“Mr Levene declined all offers of help as he deemed them unacceptable.
“While we apologise if Mr Levene was dissatisfied with the service he received, we are satisfied that our agents and staff did all they could in difficult circumstances.”
Other UK and international airports offer self-propelling wheelchairs to passengers, as do some airlines.