Wheelchair Assistance at LHR

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  • MickBettesworth

    My 80 year old sister lives in the US and is not as steady on her pins as she used to be. She preordered wheelchair assistance for her recent American Airlines flight to Miami. She checked in with the wheelchair service who told her to sit and wait. As the departure time loomed, she twice reminded them and was still told to wait. Not surprisingly, when they finally got round to her, the flight has closed. She had to wait for the next flight which was two and a half hours later. If one takes into account that she had already travelled from the West County to the airport, the delay made for a very long day.
    My point was that whilst they helped her rebook, no apology nor explanation was offered and she was made to feel that she was the one at fault!
    The saddest thing about this is that at the age of 80, with mobility issues, there may not be many more opportunities to meet up. The wheelchair service is designed to facilitate mobility issues not create problems and her confidence in her future ability to travel has been shaken. What a shame!

    3 users thanked author for this post.


    Totally inexcusable I would complain directly to the service provider ASAP and failing that make it public on social media.

    1 user thanked author for this post.


    My point was that whilst they helped her rebook,

    “Rebook” – Was there a change fee levied for the rebooking? If one was due, and the service provider was different to the airline, it should have been paid for by the service provider – even though the service provider probably had influence for any rebooking fees to be waived.

    I recall when it was my fault I missed a flight, due to drinking with a friend in the lounge, I could not blame the lounge service provider, who happened to be the airline I was travelling on, so I stumped up… However, in this case, it appears from the information supplied, it was 100% the service providers fault.


    Special assistance at Heathrow has always been a disgrace. Several years ago, I injured my knee and could only walk a few metres before stopping – thankfully okay now.

    I booked wheelchair assistance from my BA flight. The flight landed without a gate. A flight attendant kindly carried my hand luggage down the steps and I hobbled onto the bus.

    The bus deposited us at the usual ‘miles from anywhere’ entrance in T3. There was nobody waiting. There was a phone to call for assistance on the wall, oddly too high up for anyone in a wheelchair to reach. I called the number and nobody answered.

    Eventually, I gave up and spent ages slowly hobbling to passport control – past the ironic ‘welcome to Heathrow’ posters.

    A few members of the feckless special assistant team were hanging out at a desk before passport control. I started to complain, but without even looking up, the woman handed me a complaints card.

    When I did complain, I received this typical standard reply – and I’m sure nothing has improved since.

    Please let me begin by apologising to you for the level of service you experienced when you travelled through Terminal 3.

    We are to sorry to hear that you were let down by special assistance. We would expect all members of staff to be polite and professional an at times and I am disappointed to hear this was not the case.

    As you know, our partners Omniserv operate the special assistance service on our behalf. We work closely with them and our airlines to manage this and ensure that we take on feedback from passengers and continue to improve the service.

    I am sorry that we didn’t get it right on this occasion for you, and appreciate your frustration on your recent journey. I would like to assure you that we pride ourselves on providing the best possible service I have asked our Special Assistance Services Manager to review your feedback further with Omniserv so that we can improve how we manage resource and service in the terminal area at this time.

    I trust that any further journeys will be smooth and comfortable.

    In the meantime, thank you for raising this matter with us. We are determined transform customer service at Heathrow for all of our customers and we welcome any feedback which helps us to do so.

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    I’ve used the mobility assistance service at LHR Ts 2 and 5 several times over the last 2 years. It ranges from decent to appalling and I’m very sorry to hear of your sister’s experience. I find T5 is better as BA are more on top of it than the individual airlines operating from the other terminals.

    At LHR you need to proactively create a sense of urgency with the coordinators behind the desks with the walkie-talkies. Sounds like your sister was too polite and didn’t make a fuss which probably didn’t help the outcome. That’s a sad state of affairs when you have to be annoying to be noticed and assisted.

    I would raise this at the highest levels at LHR because missing a flight, assuming there was a decent connection time, is in no way acceptable when caused by this type of operational incompetence.

    1 user thanked author for this post.


    I sympathise with the OP’s sister.

    On 5/11, I was boarding a flight from LHR to MAN and heard a ‘helper’ speaking in a loud voice to an old, confused lady, saying she had to get out of the wheelchair at the top of the jetty and make her own way to the aircraft, so she could go back and get another person who needed help.

    This lady was confused and did not seem to speak English very well. She was literally made to stand up and the ‘helper’ left.

    I assisted her to the door, which was 20-25 metres distant and not easy for her, then involved the CC member at the door who took over and dealt with her in a professional and caring way.

    The episode I witnessed was a disgrace, IMO.

    1 user thanked author for this post.


    This unfortunate situation is it seem symptomatic of the UK today and very like the strike bound work shy UK that I left in 1973.

    It still home in many ways and I still own the family farm, subscribe to Country Life and the Telegraph but live perinatally in the UK again absolutely not while Cathay will take me there a few times a year.


    Unfortunately the wheelchair service at Heathrow has been consistently extremely poor for many years. It’s invariably crowded with many people waiting for really long periods before finally being collected with a wheelchair. I don’t know what the answer is but I suppose if one needs wheelchair assistance the only way of being fairly likely to catch your flight is to check in much earlier than would normally be expected. It’s a real “pain” but if you don’t then be prepared for a very stressful and anxious waiting-time period.


    Thank you all for your advice. We shall take it up with the service provider. To egg the pudding – she tested positive for COVID two days after her arrival home ( despite wearing a mask at all time). I know the airport/airline cannot be blamed for this but it will take a great deal to persuade her to travel again. Shame!


    I use a wheelchair and prefer when they don’t show up just make things more difficult.


    I’ve recently flown out of LHR with Virgin with my daughter who is in a wheelchair/mobility scooter. I have to say the staff were brilliant all the way from check in to boarding, taking her mobility scooter at the gate and returning it as the foot of the steps on arrival. She was wheel-chaired to her seat on boarding and they had a lift to leave the plane without having to use the steps. During the flight too the cabin crew were brilliant, checking in on her regularly to see she was alright. A couple of days after arriving I got an email from Virgin Special Assistance to check that her flight had gone well and she was happy. I don’t know if it was the airline or luck that made it such a different experience from what others are reporting here but I guess we’ll find out on the return journey. But so far credit to Virgin for getting it all right.


    Great Customer Service isn´t difficult but it has to be led from the top and that is where the road block is. Customers are not that important to a lot of companies, Spain and Iberia being a case in point as per another thread on this forum

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