Thomson Holidays refuses blind friends flights

Lauren Wigglesworth and Stephen Sherwood
Image caption Lauren Wigglesworth and Stephen Sherwood have been told they cannot travel

Two blind friends said they felt "disgusted" after being refused flights because of safety concerns.

Lauren Wigglesworth, from Urmston in Greater Manchester, and Stephen Sherwood, from Hereford, planned to fly to Majorca in Spain on 8 May.

When the pair requested help putting on life jackets, Thomson Holidays told them they were unable to fly.

The travel company said all passengers must be able to put on a life jacket and oxygen mask without assistance.

After returning their special assistance forms, the pair - who are friends from the Royal National College for the Blind - were given two options, to take a sighted person to assist them or cancel the holiday.

"I was disgusted with Thomson. I felt very let down," said 27-year-old Ms Wigglesworth.

"Taking someone with me defeats the object of going abroad for the first time without parents and we can't really afford to take anybody with us."

'Safety-related actions'

When the holiday was booked, she said a Thomson assistant reassured her mother a disability team would ensure the pair's safety during the flights.

Ms Wigglesworth's mother Dawn said: "They said they could look after Lauren from the minute she got on the plane at Manchester Airport to the minute she landed back home, and all her needs would be catered for."

In a statement, Thomson said: "We are sorry to hear of Ms Wigglesworth's disappointment at not being able to travel to Majorca."

The company said the pair had informed it they were unable to carry out "safety-related actions" including putting on a life jacket without help.

The statement said the requirements were part of "the Department of Transport's Code of Practice that has been confirmed by the UK Civil Aviation Authority, to which Thomson and every other UK airline must adhere".

"Unfortunately, as Ms Wigglesworth and [Mr Sherwood] are not able to complete these without assistance, we are not able to allow them to travel unaccompanied.

"We have therefore offered Ms Wigglesworth a full refund or the option to add a passenger to her booking who could assist her and [Mr Sherwood] on their trip."

Natalie Doig, campaigns officer for the Royal National Institute of Blind People, said current flight regulations did not specify that blind people needed to be accompanied.

"They basically say that any blind or partially sighted person has the right to board a plane and fly on that aeroplane anywhere in Europe.

"They may need an air steward just to show them exactly where the life jacket is underneath their seat... and just describe to them how to put it on," she said.

"There must be hundreds of blind or partially sighted people flying every day in this country. I really think this makes a nonsense of the regulations."

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