…..I have just returned from what was meant to be a lovely, relaxing fortnight in the Hotel Elba Carlota, Caleta de Fuste, Fuerteventura. To be fair to all concerned in the hotel, resort and island it is exactly what I had. The time away is what part fuelled my downing tools, escaping social media and my blog and spending some quality time with my wife, son, daughter and other family members who came with us. For the most part escaping the sharp drop in temperatures, having the warm air, time in the swimming pool, 3 meals a day together and lots and lots of laughing and joking was brilliant.
I had some issues on the flight out with special assistance that was anything but special, however in the interest of being honest and balanced the rest of the staff in the airport were very helpful. The real disaster was the return home, during the flight my wheelchair got damaged beyond repair. As soon as I got my wheelchair back I could see it was damaged although the total extent wasn’t visible immediately or until I’d been in it. What is most upsetting about the whole episode though is I reported this damage in the airport. My wife then called the damaged luggage line the next day to report it again. Because it was damaged beyond economic repair we then had to speak to a different company, having got to that point I was then given a web address to report the damage on and was told as it was a wheelchair it would be treated as priority and would be 5 days that I got a response. I followed all this advice (note to anyone else that has the same misfortune the extra info has a limit of 1000 characters) getting ever more angered as nobody from @thomsoncares (whom I have tweeted regularly) seem to be able to comprehend that taking my wheelchair away is equivalent to taking my legs. I have been told to “pop out and hire one” erm pop out in what my levitation suit? They also do not seem to understand that a custom built wheelchair is especially designed for me and I cannot rent one off the shelf that is as comfortable it is akin to expecting someone to grab any shoes of any size off the shelf not even a pair and expecting them to walk comfortably in them. There tweets all read “sorry for the inconvenience” and “all we can reiterate is that colleagues will be looking into it” this is getting me nowhere and is incredibly upsetting, nobody has bothered to call me to discuss since submitting lots of evidence, I have been given so many different numbers to call and gone through so many hurdles that the process takes too long, the whole time of which I am in increased pain every time I have to use a borrowed/hired wheelchair and therefore my life is being significantly impacted and nothing appears to be happening.
The reason I hold Thomson responsible for the damage is simple. I had pre-booked assistance and was pushed by airport staff in Fuerteventura to the Aeroplane where my wife folded the chair up in perfect working order and handed it to staff to take to the hold. At Stanstead there was a delay in my chair being returned to me whilst I sat on the plane waiting for assistance. I was transferred onto a vehicle having been strapped into a temporary evac chair and as soon as my chair was brought on to the vehicle there was damage visible(even in the dark). I immediately took photos (below) and informed the driver of the vehicle. The assistance person upon my request then took me straight to the baggage claims area where I reported the damage.
The damage took place on a flight on the 9th November 2016, some 13 days ago I made my report at Stansted Airport and Thomson still haven’t contacted me to accept liability. We travelled Thomson as we thought we were paying for the best care for me and my equipment. Now I find myself stranded or should I say grounded at the worst possible time. Since returning from my holiday it has been my LG’s birthday with a party and family meal, a charity organised fund raiser (I am chair of the group who organised it) where we were trying to show how sport can be inclusive and raise funds to purchase a pool pod. Newspaper Article and of course it is that time of year where most people do Christmas shopping. Not to mention the fact I am the main carer for my LG as my wife works FT to support our family so I need a wheelchair that is lightweight and strong to get her to nursery everyday. I have none of this and am phoning people everyday to help with shopping, picking up my LG and the everyday independence that so many people take for granted.
We reported the damage that was immediately visible at the airport which included damaged wheel rims, bent handles and rips in the seat. Liability should have been determined at this point but no, several calls, emails and tweets later and finally I was able to get it logged online on 11th November. This means for 11 days Thomson (who said they would speed process it in 5 days) have had the information, my contact details, and confirmation from the shop I bought my wheelchair from in February this year, (yes February so this is not even a year old) and nobody has contacted me. I am chasing everyone and this is exhausting.I am calling half a dozen numbers to get advice like go hire one and it can become part of your claim, or buy your replacement (I mean I have a spare £514 plus VAT kicking around after spending it earlier this year) and all this advice is being given even though I still have no acknowledgement from Thomson that they accept liability. I have spoken to my home insurance company but any claim with them will incur my excess and affect my no claims discount and it seems wrong that I should be penalised for damage caused by a major company who were meant to be looking after a vital piece of equipment, an extension of me!
Getting home and seeing the full extent of the damage to my chair was so demoralising and has had me in tears several times. We went from planning our next trips whilst looking at the flight tracker on the flight home, to crashing down to earth with a bump and me being adamant that I will not fly again as I cannot risk the pain, discomfort and tiredness of being left without a decent wheelchair again for such a long period. Add to this the complete lack of contact from Thomson to discuss the issue with me and being left in complete limbo I am so sad, and disappointed and my holiday seems a distant memory that has resulted in nothing but pain and a living daily nightmare. I’d hoped to be back into the swing of blogging and sharing some happy images of our holiday and tales of exploits with my volunteer work, instead it is this headache and far from coming back relaxed and ready to start trying more things at home I am left with nothing but increased pain, decreased function an increased reliance on others and another battle to fight to get a new chair.