“The chair is my legs”: a woman’s wheelchair breaks down on every Bastia-Paris flight

"The chair is my legs": a woman's wheelchair breaks down on every Bastia-Paris flight

Every year for six years, the wheelchair of a young woman with reduced mobility is damaged during her flight back to Orly airport, despite her warnings. Audrey Lefèvre, 27, is now considering filing a complaint: she tells BFMTV.com.

“Once, it happens. Twice, I’m nice. But each time, it’s inadmissible!” Every summer for the past six years, Audrey Lefèvre has returned from vacation without a wheelchair, because she was injured at the airport during transport in the warehouse. Last Tuesday on her return from Bastia (Corsica), the same old story of hers: she rediscovered her chair bent forcibly on the baggage arrival mat at Orly.

“It is no longer in a condition to circulate… The wheels of the chair are blurred and tilted to the right and the electrical cables that connect the motor with the remote controls have been cut”, Audrey Lefèvre tells BFMTV.com, “extremely angry and very tired.

“I just want to fly like everyone else”

“I wish I could fly like everyone else,” shouts the young woman from Oise, who did a very shared thread on Twitter. “They don’t realize the impact it has on me. It’s already complicated enough to be disabled, if they also deprive us of what is most precious to us… Now I’m very upset, I can’t even go out. my house or go to work.

In fact, the almost 27-year-old absolutely needs her electric wheelchair to get around. Since birth, she has suffered from Ullrich syndrome, a myopathy that prevents her from moving the muscles of her legs and arms: congenital muscular dystrophy.

Typically, he explains that the baggage agents place the unfolded wheelchair in a box at the height of the oversized luggage so as not to damage it during transport, and return it to him personally rather than on the carousel, where does not pass unfolded.

But it has been six times in a row that after having traveled in the Bastia-Paris direction with Air France, his wheelchair has returned to him bent, and therefore damaged. However, this time, the young woman herself had taken it upon herself to write in black on white, in French and English, “don’t bow down, thank you” for the attention of her staff. And for good reason, such an electric wheelchair is very expensive: between 7,500 and 8,000 euros.

“They told me: ‘we prefer to buy a chair and have temporary workers than qualified personnel'”

“I can’t do more than that! It’s exhausting and unacceptable,” breathes Audrey Lefèvre, who now plans to file a complaint. Because every time, she goes through lengthy administrative procedures to prove that her chair was damaged during the flight, so the airline agrees to send her a new chair and possibly compensate her.

“Once you have established a complaint file on the site, you must contact them online and then by phone and wait for them to contact us again. It may take 3-6 months before Air France acknowledges its responsibility and accept compensation. And again the last time they agreed because I threatened them with a lawsuit.”

“I would like to add that two years ago during a complaint (already), Air France told me word for word ‘we prefer to buy a seat and have temporary workers instead of qualified personnel, it costs us less,'” the young woman says again on Twitter, who says he has never had a word of apology from the airline.

The damages verified and paid by Air France

“Abusing a disabled person’s means of transport is like abusing someone’s legs,” Sandra Bossard, president of the French association of professionals for the accessibility of people with disabilities (AFPAPH), explains to BFMTV.com. “Your freedom is being attacked,” she adds, deploring “the cruel lack of staff training in the different types of transport, which is often at the root of the lack of accessibility for people with reduced mobility.”

“Transport accessibility for people with disabilities is an issue that no one takes very seriously,” Sandra Bossard still laments. “More and more companies are turning to external service providers for baggage handling, which also allows them to absolve themselves of responsibility in this type of case.”

Air France, contacted by BFMTV.com, confirms that Audrey Lefèvre’s wheelchair was damaged during a flight with the company. “Saphir service is now in contact with the customer to follow up on her case. The damage was noticed during the charging process, but we still don’t know at this stage precisely when the device was damaged.”

“The repair of the chair will have the full support of Air France and a rental chair will be made available to you,” specifies a company spokesperson, who ensures that “ramp staff are trained in handling different wheelchairs. wheels according to his writes”.

Finally, the airline specifies that the wheelchair incident that occurred in the summer of 2021 occurred with a competing company, and says that it has no information on previous incidents that would have occurred with the young woman. The young woman, however, confirms that each of them was with Air France, and that she was forced to take another company last year because her initial flight with Air France had been postponed. She points out that, however, it was Air France that supported her expenses afterwards.

Juana Bulant BFMTV journalist

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