Lord BlunkettImage copyright House of Lords
Image caption Lord Blunkett wants to “overcome the indignity and lack of independence that Frank Gardner experienced”

One peer has described being left stranded and another spoke of being left in a “dumping area” at Heathrow Airport, at question time in the Lords.

Lib Dem Baroness Brinton complained wheelchair users were “passed from pillar to post”.

The issue was raised by Labour’s Lord Blunkett, who said passengers face “indignity and lack of independence”.

Transport Minister Baroness Sugg told peers the government is committed to making “significant improvements”.

Lord Blunkett referred to the experience of BBC security editor Frank Gardner, who recently criticised Heathrow Airport after being kept nearly two hours on a plane as a result of staff losing his wheelchair.

The Labour peer was asking ministers a question about improving the experience of passengers requiring assistance when travelling through airports in the UK.

Baroness Brinton said: “Part of the problem is that under their KPIs (key performance indicators) airports are held to account solely for the journey either to or from the plane, and passengers are passed from pillar to post and from staff member to staff member, often untrained.

“I myself was stuck in a baggage hall at 6am for an hour because there was no one there to meet me with my chair.”

Image copyright House of Lords
Image caption Baroness Brinton says she was stuck for an hour because nobody brought out her chair

Conservative Baroness Gardner of Parkes, who sometimes uses a wheelchair, said about Heathrow: “It is very wrong that people arriving and needing help are held up a long time.

“They arrive with an electric vehicle that takes eight people… They are then taken to what I call a ‘dumping area’ and you all sit there indefinitely until they can find enough people with wheelchairs to take you on.”

She added: “It is quite hopeless, and although I have taken this issue up in the past with Heathrow Airport, nothing happens.”

What will happen after Brexit?

Lord Blunkett asked the government to ensure EU regulations requiring airports to make appropriate arrangements for disabled passengers are maintained after Brexit.

The minister told peers she was sorry to hear about the problems they had experienced.

She assured them “we will absolutely not fall below current standards set by EU regulations” and highlighted efforts to raise awareness of the assistance already provided at airports and introduce an accredited nationwide accessibility training scheme.

She also pointed to the Heathrow Access Advisory Group, which has set up an initiative under which all mobility equipment will be returned to the gate by default.

A spokeswoman for Heathrow Airport told the BBC: “The experience Baroness Gardner had at Heathrow is unacceptable and we apologise unreservedly.

“We are working with our special assistance service provider Omniserv and our airline partners, to deliver a better standard of service that will help to prevent incidents like this.

“Improving special assistance is a priority for the airport and we will be working harder to cut unacceptable waiting times and improve the experience for passengers.”

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