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The Tour-Smart Team



I was working on an article about the standard of wheelchair assistance at various airports around the world. I have arthritis in both knees, ankle and neck, so walking and standing for any amount of time can be painful. What stood out from my personal experiences while travelling in and out of Gatwick, Stansted, Southend and City airports was that London’s Heathrow –Terminals 3, 4 and 5 - is far and away the worst organised of any of those airports for wheelchair assistance.

It seems to be the general organisation of the ‘special assistance’ operation at Heathrow that is at fault. It might be a good idea for them to go back to basics, do away with the electric carts and have one wheelchair per passenger from or to the aircraft. It isn’t as if we don’t pre-book this service so there’s no excuse for the lack of organisation. Certainly, when it works, we really appreciate it.

I very recently returned to Heathrow after a 13 hours flight on British Airways. There were several wheelchairs required at the aircraft door. None were there. We were asked to walk up the ramp and then even further so we could reach the electric cart. After ages trying to sort out who needs to go where we set off. It is a long way underground in Terminal 5 to reach Passport Control. We finally made it only to have to change vehicles before passing through the control point. We were then taken down into the baggage hall where we were disembarked at the special assistance desk. I had to wait for nearly an hour for someone with a wheelchair to push me to collect my suitcase and pass through Customs.

This is not unusual as I have previously been left outside Passport Control and been expected to walk to the far end of the hall to reach the ‘quick line’. On that occasion I almost collapsed and only just made it to the ‘special assistance’ desk where they got me a wheelchair.

We don’t request wheelchair assistance for fun and we don’t expect to be asked to walk up slopes and along corridors because it’s not convenient to get an electric cart close to the disembarking aircraft. If Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi, Buenos Aires, Oman, Miami, Montevideo and Bodrum airports can do an excellent job, why can’t the self-acclaimed world’s favourite airport – London Heathrow?

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The Corinthia Hotel in Prague

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