Emirates leaves disabled passenger ‘in limbo’ for three months after breaking her wheelchair

Helen Coffey

A disabled passenger has spoken out against Emirates’ “appalling” treatment of her after the airline broke her wheelchair and failed to offer any response for almost three months.

Jen Warren, an anaesthetist and mother of two from Rugby in the West Midlands, said the carrier had “really upset” her by leaving her “in limbo” since her flight on 24 April.

“They’ve treated me absolutely appallingly,” she told The Independent. “Not only have they trashed my wheelchair, but they don’t seem to care.”

The damage occurred during a return flight from Mauritius to Birmingham via Dubai.

As soon as Ms Warren saw her wheelchair in the baggage reclaim hall, she knew something was amiss: “I couldn’t steer in a straight line at all,” she said. “Normally I push our one-year-old’s pushchair myself while my husband deals with the luggage, but I couldn’t.”

They immediately reported the problem to baggage claims company K2 Global at the airport, who promptly offered to take away the chair and have it repaired, or gave Ms Warren the option of having it repaired locally.

She opted for the latter as she didn’t want to be left without her chair for long.

After several attempts to repair the damage failed, Ms Warren was forced to accept she would need a new wheelchair.

She contacted K2 Global with a quote for a new one, and was told the information had been passed along to Emirates.

However, after a month, Ms Warren had still heard nothing from the airline. She followed up with K2 Global in June, who assured her that several emails marked “urgent” had been sent to Emirates regarding her wheelchair.

“I appreciate these things take time, but when you’re trying to use a chair that only goes in one direction and do a school run, it’s a nightmare,” said Ms Warren.

“I’m an active user, I like to get out a lot. If I knew it would take this long, I would have got a new chair straight away.”

She added: “If you took someone’s car keys or took away their shoes, they might appreciate how difficult it is.”

At the time of first talking to The Independent on 18 July, Ms Warren had still heard nothing official from the airline.

Correspondence with Emirates via social media produced lacklustre results, with representatives offering no timeframe or information on when Ms Warren might receive a response.

Social media messages gave no further information (Jen Warren)

“We’re still following up with our customer relations team,” wrote several different Emirates employees, despite the fact it had been nearly two months since the issue was initially raised.

Ms Warren, who is currently on maternity leave, was forced to stump up almost £1,000 herself for a new wheelchair as she couldn’t claim on insurance without a response from the airline.

“The uncertainty makes the situation much worse,” she said. “I’m fortunate in that I’m a doctor and could afford to buy a new chair, but I know a lot of people aren’t in that position.

“People have no concept of how much a wheelchair costs. They think you can buy one off the shelf or replace it quite easily – but you can’t. It takes time to find the right size and they’re not easily adjustable.”

The complete lack of response from Emirates has affected Ms Warren more than the financial outlay, she said.

“I’d like them to recognise that they’ve taken away my main mobility aid for three months – I’m frustrated that they can ignore someone for this length of time,” said Ms Warren.

“They’ve really, really upset me by this lack of communication.

“I want them to look at their policy about how they deal with these types of things. Accidents happen, but it’s all about how you deal with them.

“It’s not a particularly complicated issue to look into. They should be able to give you an offer within a couple of weeks and provide a replacement while they make a decision.”

She added: “I’m sure if one of Emirates’ aeroplanes was out of action for three months, and they were told ‘Sorry for the delay, we’re looking into it’, they wouldn’t just accept it.”

Since The Independent has been in touch, Emirates has finally sent Ms Warren an official email offering £650 towards the cost of a new wheelchair.

A spokesperson said: “Emirates takes its responsibility for meeting the needs of our wheelchair passengers seriously and we apologise to the passenger for the time it has taken to resolve this matter. We are corresponding directly with the passenger and on 18 July shared a settlement offer with her.”