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Paraplegic drags himself through airport and sues

November 5, 2018 Headline News 2 Comments Email Email

A paraplegic athlete who dragged himself through an air terminal after his self-propelling wheelchair was left behind on a flight, has explained why he refused to use an airport wheelchair and why he is now reportedly suing the airport.

Justin Levene, a British international wheelchair marathon athlete who is paralysed below the waist, says he declined the offer of a high-backed wheelchair at London Luton Airport because he felt it removed his independence, as he couldn’t propel it himself.

According to the BBC, Levine is suing Luton Airport for not providing enough disability and awareness training to staff responsible for delivering mobility assistance.

The airport argues it did everything it could in the circumstances and adds that “Mr Levene has not served any legal proceedings against London Luton Airport (LLA)”.

Levene said that when the wheelchair incident happened in August last year he suggested he could instead be transported in a motorised buggy, but Luton Airport did not have one.

Levene says this left him with just one option – to drag himself along the floor for hundreds of metres. Footage of him doing so went online.

When Levene reached the terminal exit, he hauled himself onto a baggage trolley and used his hands to propel himself along the ground to his taxi, the BBC reported.

Levene said he had worked very hard for years to try and maintain all of his independence.

“To be in one of the chairs they were offering would make me feel humiliated and degraded. They insisted in trying to strap me down in it. I wouldn’t have been able to adjust myself, and would have been at risk of getting a pressure sore.”

Levene said he felt “humiliated” – and angry that staff did not seem to understand his position.


Justine Levene


Following a BBC program on Levene and his airport situation, Luton Airport issued the following statement in response:

On discovering that Mr Levene’s flight from Croatia had arrived without his wheelchair, in August 2017, our teams worked hard to find a solution, offering Mr Levene an assisted wheelchair as a temporary replacement. Mr Levene declined all offers of help. Whilst we apologise if Mr Levene was dissatisfied with the service he received, we are satisfied that our agents and staff did all they could in difficult circumstances. 

Luton Airport said its Special Assistance service received the second highest rating “Good” by Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority in 2017.

The airport added:

  • Last year LLA [Luton Airport] helped 112,000 passengers with reduced mobility. This year we expect that number to increase to 115,000.
  • CAA advice to passengers with mobility impairments states “If your [mobility] equipment is damaged, the airport is responsible for providing a temporary alternative while yours is repaired or replaced, but this does not have to be on a like for like basis”. LLA fully complied with this in this case, even though the wheelchair was missing through no fault of LLA and was not actually damaged.

Written by Peter Needham

Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. bruce weston says:

    have to agree with the airport here — Luton is a low cost facility – a motorised wheelchair is very heavy and requires at least 2 people to even lift one , any equiptment provided has to be covered by safety issues and a pusher is one of them . This story , whilst sad , is just an attempt for publicity and dare I say money – but I doubt any lawyer could make a case of it ,

  2. AgentGerko says:

    I really hope he doesn’t win a cent. Just another disability-warrior. It wasn’t the airports fault about his self-propelled wheelchair, they provided a perfectly reasonable alternative but he just wanted publicity. By his standards, all of the thousands of people who request a wheelchair assist every day are being degraded and humiliated.

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