Able Magazine has always encouraged disabled people to be as independent as possible and to seek out new and exciting experiences. Our own production manager, Terry Gillan, found out that sometimes it’s a struggle – but it’s worth it.

“The last time I was on holiday was probably about 15 years ago. I wanted to go to Puerto del Carmen in Lanzarote because my sister had been, so she knew all about it. She knew it was going to be OK for me (as a wheelchair user).”

Naturally, Terry did his homework and took advice from the travel agent who booked the holiday and submitted a doctor’s ‘fit to fly’ letter as well. Nevertheless, some months later after another questionnaire had been sent to him, Terry was told that his booking had been cancelled because he would be unable to ‘walk’ to an aeroplane’s exit in the event of an emergency.

Travelling solo 

The travel agent had also received a notification from the Thomson Airways that despite their respect to procedure, they “Should never have taken the booking for a solo wheelchair user.”

Not one to give up easily, Terry and the travel agent started again to find an alternative and found that airline, Jet2 had flights on the same days.

“They were absolutely fine” says Terry. “The girl that I spoke with said that she was a wheelchair user as well and that she travels alone, all the time, for business.”

Of course Thomson Airways, responsible for the original booking had by this time pulled down the shutters on the issue but that didn’t really matter, especially since as Terry puts it, on the day: “It was fine. Just a normal check-in and then up to the assistance area and helped on to the plane. The staff at the airport in Lanzarote stayed with me until the accessible taxi came. They were really helpful.” (Ironically, it was Thomson staff at the airport, since they’d honoured the hotel booking.)

So as Terry can now testify to, you should always double check airline policies yourself, saying: “If you’re travelling by yourself I would certainly check it out. Make sure the airline are OK with it. Check their policy.”

So was it worth it? “Definitely. I’ve been looking at prices to go back again next year!”

“It was fine. Just a normal check-in and then up to the assistance area and helped on to the plane.”

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) provided us with the following notes on air travel for disabled people

If you’re a passenger with a disability or reduced mobility, you are legally entitled to support, commonly known as ‘Special Assistance’, when travelling by air. This means airports and airlines must provide help and assistance, which is free of charge, and helps ensure you have a less stressful journey.

Special assistance is available to passengers who may need help to travel, such as the elderly, those people with a physical disability, such as wheelchair users, and those who have difficulty with social interaction and communication, such as those with autism or dementia.

Your right to special assistance is stipulated in EU law and applies when:

• You fly on any airline from an EU airport

• You fly on an EU registered airline to an EU airport

• Passengers who want special assistance should aim to give their airline 48 hours’ notice of the help they require.

Help is available from the moment you arrive at an airport and can cover: 

• your journey through your departure airport

• boarding the aircraft and during the flight

• disembarking the aircraft

• transferring between flights

• travelling through your destination airport.