The family of injured war hero Ben Parkinson have welcomed new legislation giving disabled travellers legal entitlement to special assistance in the air.
The legislation comes after Thomas Cook issued an apology to the paratrooper – the British Army’s most injured survivor of the Afghanistan conflict – back in October after he was told there was no aisle chair for his use during a flight.
Lance Bombardier Ben was travelling from Cyprus with five fellow servicemen for charity Pilgrim Bandits when the incident happened and a member of staff told him: “It’s not my problem.”
Now the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority has legal authority to ensure airlines and airports comply with the law.
Any airport or airline persistently failing to meet European law will be given an Enforcement Order which could lead to prosecution.
Ben’s step dad Andy Dernie said: “We welcome the new legislation.
“I think anything that legally makes it easier for disabled people, not just Ben, to travel has got to be a good thing. It seems like common sense but unfortunately that was the problem on the flight when Ben experienced the problems, because it wasn’t a legal requirement staff told us they were not obliged to provide it.
“Anything that’s put in place to ensure aircrafts have to adhere to these rules has got to be welcomed.”
Thomas Cook Airlines launched an investigation into the incident.
The Civil Aviation – Access to Air Travel for Disabled Persons and Persons with Reduced Mobility – Regulations 2014 will mean disabled travellers are entitled to special assistance in the air including help when travelling through an airport and boarding or disembarking an aircraft.
Meanwhile Ben was mingling with the A-listers and even tried on Rod Stewart’s snazzy red shoes at the star-studded Sun newspaper’s Military Awards on Wednesday night. As well as sharing a laugh with rocker Rod, Ben posed for a selfie with Homeland actor Damian Lewis and caught up with sporting ace David Beckham.
Andy said: “It was such a good night, Damian Lewis was a really great guy and spent a lot of time chatting to Ben.
“And when Ben saw Rod Stewart he went straight over in typical Ben Parkinson style, taking no prisoners, and said give me those shoes I want to try them on and he handed them over, he was fantastic.
“Penny Lancaster was looking through all Ben’s medals too.
“Towards the end David Beckham came over and had a chat to Ben and his picture taken. He had a great time.”