A disabled passenger left waiting on a plane reportedly fell to his death after getting off without a helper at Gatwick Airport.
A source told The Sun that the man and his wife required special assistance to disembark and the passenger fell down an escalator after making his own way onto the North Terminal.
EasyJet confirmed the death in a statement on Wednesday (15 June), adding that members of its cabin crew gave medical assistance to the unnamed man while waiting for help from paramedics.
The airline said: “A number of our cabin crew provided medical assistance to a passenger at Gatwick Airport whilst waiting for paramedics to arrive, however the passenger sadly later passed away.
“Our thoughts are with their family and friends at this difficult time.”
The incident occurred at around 12.50pm on Wednesday when airport staff were helping to disembark three passengers with restricted mobility (PRM), a Gatwick Airport spokesperson said.
A source told The Sun that a staff member came to take a woman into the airport but a man was left on the plane.
They explained: “He must not have wanted to wait for the staff member to come back so made his own way into the terminal.
“While on the escalator the passenger fell down and suffered serious injuries as a result and died.
“This is a tragic incident which should never have happened. Someone should have been helping him.”
“There’s been a real issue with staffing problems and some disabled people have had to wait for hours for help.
“Normal airport staff have had to be reminded not to help disabled passengers if they’re not qualified to, even if it means passengers waiting for hours.”
What has Gatwick Airport said?
Gatwick Airport has said that staff shortages played no role in the tragedy and a formal investigation is now underway.
The spokesperson said: “This is a sad and tragic incident and our thoughts remain with the family of the deceased.
“A member of Wilson James staff was waiting when the aircraft arrived and was in the process of disembarking the three PRM passengers when the incident occurred.
“Staff shortages were not a factor in this incident as has been claimed. It is normal for one staff member to disembark three passengers who require assistance by taking them one at a time the short distance to the waiting buggy.
“A formal investigation is currently underway and it would not be appropriate to comment further.”
Gatwick’s North Terminal has experienced huge queues in recent weeks as staff shortages have caused flights to be cancelled or delayed.
Travel chaos has been reported across many of the UK’s major airports, including Manchester, Bristol and Heathrow, with some passengers forced to wait more than four hours for flights.
The Department for Transport (DfT) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) have warned airlines to review their summer timetables to ensure they are “deliverable” to avoid further disruption this summer.
The CAA said it had seen an increase in reports of “significant service failings” at airports, including incidents where passengers needing assistance have been taken off a plane hours after other passengers.
Gatwick has today announced it is cutting the number of daily flights over the busy summer period to help tackle staff shortages, and will limit its daily flights to 825 in July and 850 in August. This is down from a reported 900 daily flights during the same period in previous years.
The airport said the reduced flights will allow airlines to manage more predictable timetables to help passengers “experience a more reliable and better standard of service”, but stressed that the vast majority of scheduled summer flights will operate as normal.