Tour-Smart Limited

The Tour-Smart Team


Please read the latest updates to this piece under the article.

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?

Here is a  quck update.
I arrived into Heathrow Terminal 3 from Dubai on Saturday at 18.40hrs. Despite the airline's request for 2 wheelchairs to meet the flight none were there at the aircraft. After refusing a request that I walk up the jet way the kindly airline's agent went off in search of one. It arrived and I was pushed up the jet way and then dumped in a corridor with no available seating. There I had to wait until an electric trolley arrived.

Eventually this trolley dumped me off at the Special Assistance Desk outside of Immigration. There we (3 other cases & I) waited well over 30 minutes for just a single chair and pusher to arrive. The husband of one of the other people waiting asked if he could push his wife through in a spare wheelchair. So the two chairs headed to Immigration and on through to Baggage Collection and out into the terminal where my private hire driver was waiting ( the delay did cost me extra money). 

I have subsequently discovered that, at the heart of Heathrow's wheelchair chaos is a company called OMNISERV.  Their website . A quote from their Chairman says "We are a People Company and have always believed a satisfied customer is the result of well valued and rewarded members of staff." - Ernest Patterson, Chairman, OmniServ Ltd. 

If long shifts, basic pay and minimum possible staff on duty to handle Special Assistance requests is their idea of obtaining 'satisfied customers' then perhaps the Airport Authority should investigate and re-consider this company's contract based on it's consistant lack of performance. 

We have recceived the following response from a Heathrow spokesperson

“We are sorry hear about the difficulties you faced when travelling through Heathrow. Our passengers have come to expect a high level of service from us and deserve a smooth and stress-free journey, and the lack of service you experienced is unacceptable. Our special assistance service is investigating the circumstances around your journey, and we will providing more direct Heathrow oversight of the Omniserv teams to ensure all passengers are assisted promptly, every time.”

*   *   *

Another new article arrives - HURRAH !

The Corinthia Hotel in Prague

Please click on  Corinthia Prague to visit the article

*   *   *



*   *   *

*   *   *

Have fun and tell us about your travel plans for 2017

* * *



Featured Articles


Tour-smart involves you in the excitment that is Cambodia. An unusual holiday destination that is hot and steamy but rewarding.

Read more