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Thread: Flying with a disability - pre booking seats

  1. #1

    Flying with a disability - pre booking seats

    Hi, I'm new here and hoping you guys can help/

    I've just booked a return trip to Egypt for myself and my mum. We've booked with Red Sea Holidays online, which we've done a number of times in the past.
    My mum suffers from osteo-arthritis in her ankles, knees, hips and spine and can't get in and out of the normal seats on the aircraft (she doesn't need a wheelchair). In the past I've rang Red Sea and they've always pre booked us medical seats, so I had no reason to think there would be any issue this time.

    I've spent the last 3 days trying to get this arranged. Red Sea are telling me that as the flight is with Thomas Cook, they will not allow Red Sea customers to be pre book until 3-7 days before departure.
    My concern is if we have to wait until that close to travelling, if there are no medical seats left, my mum won't be able to travel.

    I've done some research on-line and found a Dept of Transport Access to Air Travel for Disabled Persons and Persons with Reduced Mobility - Code of Practice. Its a massive document but it looks to me as though the airline has a legal obligation to provide the necessary arrangements for disabled passengers.

    Has anyone else had any similar experience? And if so did you manage to get a resolution?

  2. #2
    Senior Member DizzyDee's Avatar
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    You need to get in touch with the airline and ask for special assistance. They will assist you from you arriving at the airport, to getting on the plane and assitance at the other end. They will also sort it out for coming home. I've always been given good seating.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by DizzyDee View Post
    You need to get in touch with the airline and ask for special assistance. They will assist you from you arriving at the airport, to getting on the plane and assitance at the other end. They will also sort it out for coming home. I've always been given good seating.
    Thanks for the reply DizzyDee. I've already spoken to the airline and they say the same. They won't pre book seats unless you're booked direct with them.

  4. #4
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    I would contact Thomas Cook Airlines to probe their policy more deeply. One of two things is happening if what you describe is correct, and both are unsatisfactory.

    One possibility is that they collect requests from those booking direct, leaving other companies to collect requests from their customers to pass on close to departure, and no allocations are made until all the requests have been collected. This risks passengers being booked on a flight that does not have the seating necessary to accommodate them.

    The other possibility is that they are accepting and acting on seating requests from those booking direct now, but will not act on requests from those booking through other companies until close to departure. This is likely to lead to prioritisation based on factors other than who is most in need.


    Unfortunately, I'm not familiar with the specialist law surrounding holidays, but if you made it clear before you agreed to make the booking that specialist seating for your mother was essential, that requirement may well be incorporated into the holiday contract. Unfortunately, relying on that might prove difficult, as turning something that might not even have been written down into a clearly enforceable right against someone based on contract law could prove tricky.


    Once you've ascertained what Thomas Cook Airlines' policy actually is, I would write to the holiday company, with copies to the airline and the travel agent. In your letter, I would explain what steps you took to make it clear at the time of booking that your mother can sit is a seat with extra room but cannot sit in an ordinary seat (or, alternatively, to explain that you have always been able to make a special seating request immediately after booking, and saw no reason to assume otherwise this time - though the lesson if you did assume is never to assume but always check first). I would conclude by stating that it is unsatisfactory that you have to wait until shortly before departure to know whether the airline can accommodate this straightforward request, and express a hope that you can work together to find a mutually acceptable solution.

    My experience is that a lot of these things are inadvertent, in that nobody has thought through the effects of their policy. It might be that the airline only receives a confirmed list of passengers for seats sold through other holiday companies shortly before departure, so that is why they will not accept requests from those passengers until a few days before departure. If you explain that this leaves you in the unsatisfactory situation of not knowing whether you will be able to fly until a few days before you are due to go, it might be that the policy is changed to something more satisfactory.

  5. #5
    Senior Member beau's Avatar
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    The other option is to pay for and book extra legroom seats.

  6. #6
    Thanks Flymo. According to Thos Cook, the policy is that Red Sea send through their manifests 3-7 days before departure.

    Quote Originally Posted by beau View Post
    The other option is to pay for and book extra legroom seats.
    I did ask if I could do this when they refused the medical seats, but they have the same policy for Red Sea customers. It can't be done until 3-7 days before departure.
    Last edited by missyp284; 16-01-14 at 10:21.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Lighttouch's Avatar
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    I flew with Thomas Cook a few years ago. The best plan is to phone the airline direct and ask for special needs team. You need to ask for wheelchair assistance going and returning.

    The advantages are you'll get on the plan first. You'll be seated at the front with fairly good leg room and near to toilets.
    You won't have to stand in queues being searched as you 'll get whisked through security.

    On arrival you'll be the last off the plane but taken to the front of the luggage carousel. You'll probably be the first out of the airport too. It takes all the stress out of travelling in my opinion.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Lighttouch View Post
    I flew with Thomas Cook a few years ago. The best plan is to phone the airline direct and ask for special needs team. You need to ask for wheelchair assistance going and returning.

    The advantages are you'll get on the plan first. You'll be seated at the front with fairly good leg room and near to toilets.
    You won't have to stand in queues being searched as you 'll get whisked through security.

    On arrival you'll be the last off the plane but taken to the front of the luggage carousel. You'll probably be the first out of the airport too. It takes all the stress out of travelling in my opinion.

    Thanks for the reply Lighttouch. I've already spent over 3 hours on the phone with the airline and they are refusing to pre book the seats until 3 days before we fly as we're not booked direct with them. Direct customers take priority on booking all seats, wether they have any special requirements or not.
    I've managed to find the CEO's e-mail address and sent an e-mail this morning which got a fairly quick reply and it's now being handled by the Directors Office. So hopefully something will get sorted out.

  9. #9
    donkey66
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    Ive been to Sharm El Shiek, Hurgada many times, at one point more than twice a year.
    Ive flown with Thomas Cook, Thompson (they do have diffrent planes lol) but suprisingly the best of all of them is Easy Jet.
    In the special requirements I have always notified them of my disability.
    If you are with someone I did notice each and every time they sort of mini assess you to ensure they can get you off the plane in an emergency never have I found it a problem, in fact normaly they allow you on the plane before others.
    Now be warned Egypt is a great place but the term Egyptian builders isnt there as a rascist remark what is called a ramp is often especialy in the higher end hotels a marble like finish ramp that could be at a elevated angle its almost funny.
    If your close to a pool or it rains these become ski slopes.
    On the plus side the people are so nice and eager to help you can expect to be over spolit and nothing and I mean nothing is too much trouble
    When you get to check in dont worry Im absolutely positive you wont be ratchet strapped to the wings or refused a flight I understand we all like to have notifications etc in place way before we go just trust all airlines have seen people in your position before and know how to cope
    If you google will i be disadvantaged on a airline you do find odd horror story, but take it in context ive read about traffic wardens giving an hour extra and helping you with your bags in the same place
    Its a great destination you will get spoilt silly there if people stop looking at 5 star UK equivilant and comparing and just relax enjoy weather and culture you on a massive winner
    I understand we all like written promises way before we fly just remember Disabilty takes many forms from emotional to needing more than one seat and carrying life permitting medical equipment so when you book in look into the smile of the hostess smile back and start your holiday

  10. #10
    Senior Member
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    Absolutely phone the airline and TELL them of your mothers conditon. We went to Rhodes in 2012 and the airline gave us seats with extra legroom (at the back and aisle seats) so we could get up and move round, stretch legs during 4 hr flight.

    Consider hiring a chair even if she does not usually use one, the heat can make a condition worse (wheelfreedom is a good on eand let me take it on train, plane and will deliver to one place and pick up from another.
    DO bear in mind often abroad kerbs are about 10 inches high, cobbles (murder with wobbly leg) and do as much research beforehand as you can as to how accessible places are. At the top of 50 steps for instance. (no chance)
    Assisted passage - definitely request it. you will be whizzed thru the airport. Put 1st on the plane and probly last off, BUT you can avoid carrying heavy luggage and steps and miles n miles of airport.

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