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‘Degraded’ wheelchair user, 15, forced to shuffle up plane stairs after British Airways lost specialist chair

Simon Calder’s Travel

A 15-year-old wheelchair user was forced to shuffle up a flight of stairs after a jet bridge broke and British Airways lost his specialist chair and spare.

Tomas Woods, a wheelchair motocross (WCMX) world champion from Preston, was on his way back from California where he was training with his coach, Ben Adshead, who is able-bodied, when he was made to “bum shuffle” up the internal steps leading to the upper floor of the plane as the jet bridge was broken.

The 15-year-old has hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome which is caused by faults in certain genes that make connective tissue weaker and results in him having chronic pain, joint dislocation, muscle weakness and gastroenterology issues.

The experience on a British Airways flight from Dallas to Heathrow on April 1 2024, made Tomas “very frustrated” – especially when he was informed after a two-hour wait onboard that his £5,000 specialist wheelchair used when boarding was lost and they also could not locate his spare wheelchair in the hold.

He said he was then forced to use an airport wheelchair, which he could not push himself, received little help when going to the toilet between flights and was not updated about his chairs’ whereabouts.

Once he got home, he complained about the flights and threatened to go to the press – at this point he said the complaints team then “as if by magic” found his specialist wheelchair and spare wheelchair and posted them back to him.

Tomas has praised some members of staff who helped him during the ordeal including a member of the cabin crew who requested he should be transferred 10,000 Avios flight points, but he has not received them, and British Airways have failed to respond to his complaint.

Tomas is a a wheelchair motocross world champion (Collect/PA Real Life) (PA)

He has not received any compensation or a response from the airline – but when contacted by PA Real Life British Airways apologised to him for the “unacceptable experience”.

Tomas said “When we were getting on, they were like, ‘Are you sitting upstairs? Well, the jet bridge is broken. We’re going to have to change your seats, you’re going to have to wait here. You might miss your flight’.

“We didn’t have any other option and didn’t want to miss our flight, so we got on board, and we got the assistance guys to carry the wheelchair to the hold.


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