Wheelchair user 'distraught' after flight leaves her behind on tarmac

A women sitting in a wheelchair
Author Liz Weir has spoken of her shock at the incident [BBC]

A Northern Ireland author has said she was left distraught after she was left stranded "on the tarmac" in a wheelchair at a Belfast airport as her flight departed without her.

Liz Weir said airlines need to re-think how they treat passengers with additional needs.

She was due to board an easyJet flight from Belfast International to Edinburgh, where she had been due to host an event on Friday.

The County Antrim woman uses a wheelchair due to a heart condition, which meant she had to wait along with another wheelchair user for the rest of the plane's passengers to board.

She told BBC News NI that when she arrived at the steps to take her turn to board the 13.00 BST flight, the pilot gave a signal to suggest that she could not do so.

They then watched from the tarmac as the plane left without them.

The airline said two other passengers were also affected.

Mrs Weir, from Cushendall, told BBC News NI there were no seats available on the flight to Edinburgh until 20:50 BST so she did not get to the city until nearly 23:00 BST.

"You always say 'oh they won’t go without us' but they actually did, they went without us and took my luggage as well," she said.

"I was distraught because I needed to get on that plane in order to get to my gig last night, which of course I missed.

"People had bought tickets and they were sitting there waiting for me and I didn’t make it."

The author said she would like "a proper apology from whoever was responsible".

"I would obviously like some sort of compensation, I lost earnings last night, there’s appointments there, the damage to my reputation is there," she said.

"But it’s more an important point that needs to be stressed that they need to be taking better care of people with mobility issues."

Mrs Weir added: "I'd like to have an assurance that people will be treated with proper care and consideration.

"Since this happened and has been on the media, people have been writing in saying how they've been left stranded on planes, off planes, in corridors.

"I've never had a problem before travelling in similar circumstances, so this is a first and hopefully a last for me, but from what I'm hearing feedback-wise it's happening to a lot of people."

A spokesperson for Belfast International Airport told BBC News NI they were aware of the situation, but said it was a matter for the airline.

'Totally stressed out'

In a statement, easyJet said:

''We are very sorry that flight EZY55 from Belfast to Edinburgh on Friday 21 June departed without three passengers who were being accompanied by the airport’s special assistance provider.

"We have urgently raised with the provider and our ground-handling team to understand why this happened.''

The airline added: ''We are doing everything possible to assist the passengers, arranging for flights to Glasgow and Edinburgh later this evening to get them to their destination as quickly as possible,

''Our team looked after them throughout and provided them with refreshment vouchers while they waited for their new flight.

"We will also be processing the compensation they are due.''

On Saturday easyJet confirmed the incident is "currently being investigated."

Mrs Weir said her experience had been very stressful.

"I was totally stressed out, you know, I’m not supposed to get stressed and I was really, really stressed, the other woman was as well," she said.

"You just don’t believe this is possible, but also I didn’t think it was possible for them to take luggage and not take the passenger with the luggage."

She commended airport staff for having been ''nothing but helpful" to her.