Steve Smithers “crushed” after having to cancel flight to visit sick father
Steve Smithers, who lives in Co Down, was recently blocked from boarding an EasyJet flight from Belfast International Airport after security deemed his wheelchair repair toolkit a threat.
Smithers, who was flying to Gatwick to visit his sick father, uses a wheelchair following a motorcycle accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down 11 years ago. He always carries a repair kit with him in the event he needs to fix or adjust his wheelchair.
Security at Belfast International Airport would not let Smithers board the flight with his tools, citing that the tools could be used to “dismantle the plane.”
Smithers was told he would have to check the tools into a bag, but that he would have to go back through security to do so, which would cause him to miss his flight. Smithers suggested asking the cabin crew to hold onto his tools for him during the flight, but said that security said that wasn’t possible.
Travelling without his repair kit handy was out of the question for Smithers who ultimately had to miss his flight.
Smithers said, "It's an emotional time because of the thing with my dad. I was humiliated really because the attitude of the security was appalling, they didn't want to listen, they didn't want to listen to any explanation. I have flown extensively since I've been injured and never really had a problem."
He added, "It is concerning that if I, as a confident wheelie of eleven years' experience, have been caused this much distress and suffered such a blow to my confidence, you can only imagine that for someone travelling in a chair for the first time, this could be enough to put them off travelling for life.”
Belfast International Airport responded to the incident in a statement: "As the treatment experienced by Mr Smithers during this process fell well below standards expected from security personnel, in order to remedy this, the airport will be immediately reviewing customer service and escalation procedures with our security provider ICTS.”
Belfast International Airport offered compensation for the incident, but Smithers, not looking for monetary gain, asked the Airport to make a donation to charity instead. The Airport will be honoring his request.