paraplegic man who dragged himself through airport to drop legal action

Paraplegic man who dragged himself through airport to drop legal action


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Media captionThis is how the BBC first reported Justin Levene’s story. Luton Airport says it’s now upgraded its facilities.

A paraplegic athlete who dragged himself through the arrivals terminal at Luton Airport says he is dropping his legal action as the airport has “improved their disabled facilities”.

Justin Levene’s self-propelling wheelchair was left behind on a flight in the incident, last August.

He was offered a rigid high-backed chair but refused, as he felt it removed his independence.

Luton Airport now says it has 10 self-propelled wheelchairs.

As well as the chairs, based permanently at the airport, the airport says its provisions include:

  • A loan replacement system whereby it lends people equipment, such as wheelchairs, free of charge as well as organising and funding the returns process
  • Where it has pre-notification of a requirement for very specialised mobility equipment, it has an arrangement in place with a local disability resource centre who will assist the airport in sourcing such items.

‘Never about money’

Mr Levene, an international wheelchair athlete, trainer and mentor to disabled athletes, said: “If Luton now has self-propelling wheelchairs, and a loan system in case of loss or damage to a wheelchair, then I’m delighted with this outcome.

“This was never about money, it was about trying get a change in policy.

“I am happy to drop my legal claim because Luton has taken on board my concerns and improved their disabled facilities for the better.”

Image copyright Justin Levene
Image caption Justin Levene says he had no option but to drag himself through the airport rather than use a chair that needed to be pushed

As well as fears about independence, Mr Levene, from north London, was concerned about pressure sores from using a rigid high-backed chair.

He had herniated a disc when he was 20 and a subsequent operation to fix the problem went wrong, leaving him paralysed below the waist and reliant on his self-propelling wheelchair.

He said: “I hope that media coverage has helped raise awareness of issues around the mobility needs of disabled travellers.

“We simply want to get from A to B with as much dignity and independence as possible.”

Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that the result Mr Levene had achieved was “amazing”.

“This is the reality for a lot of disabled people. You get left on planes, you get left for sometimes a couple of hours,” she said.

“Last week I decided to crawl off a train because it didn’t appear that anyone was coming to get me.”

Mr Levene’s experience has prompted disabled people to share their stories of using public transport, including being left on trains.

When Mr Levene’s story was covered by the BBC on Friday, Luton Airport said in a statement: “On discovering that Mr Levene’s flight had arrived without his wheelchair, our teams worked hard to find a solution, offering Mr Levene an assisted wheelchair as a temporary replacement.

“Mr Levene declined all offers of help as he deemed them unacceptable.

“While we apologise if Mr Levene was dissatisfied with the service he received, we are satisfied that our agents and staff did all they could in difficult circumstances.”