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Awful travel experience- not sure what I can do?

axwy62axwy62 Member Posts: 140 Pioneering
edited July 2018 in Disabled people
I recently had a pretty awful experience whilst travelling on a cross channel ferry - it's a trip I do fairly regularly, they know I use a powered wheelchair and they know it's too big to get round the tight corners to access one of the lifts so I have to be parked by the other one.

Every time we're due to travel I remind them where I need to be parked and I make sure the check-in staff know but it never seems to get to the loading staff. Usually my husband stops the car approximately where it needs to be, we wait for someone to notice and come and talk to us, explain, argue a bit, sometimes have to be quite insistent and end up parked where we need to be. Every time I complain the ferry company say it won't happen again.

Last time the chap in charge of loading was clearly some sort of control freak and no way on this earth was he going to let us park by the good lift. He was rude, insulting and effectively called me a liar, and only allowed me to be 'dropped off' by the good lift when I insisted that otherwise he would have to promise to personally carry me up the stairs when my chair got stuck. He clearly thought that by the end of the crossing I'd suddenly discover that I could manage the other lift (the chair doesn't look too big, but it really won't go around the corners, and yes I did find out the hard way) because when he saw me waiting patiently for everyone else to get off so my husband could drive all the way around the ship to get back to pick me up he did allow him to reverse back as soon as there was enough room and tried to act all nice and smiley - I'm sure the Purser had already told him we'd complained about the insults.

I don't expect the complaint to accomplish anything, but there doesn't seem to be anything else I can do - the Equality Act doesn't apply to ferries, apart from them not being allowed to charge me extra etc. and they don't belong to any trade organisation or anything like that. The obvious choice would be to just use a different operator but there are pretty good reasons why this particular route is the easiest, cheapest and most convenient and hours of research have failed to turn up anything else that wouldn't require an extra overnight stay in an hotel as a minimum.

Any suggestions? 

Replies

  • Pippa_AlumniPippa_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 5,851 Disability Gamechanger
    Oh I'm so sorry to hear this @axwy62, especially as you've already used your time and energy to follow up the issue and make complaints already.

    I wonder whether the company have a procedure for escalating complaints further- some do this to accommodate those who feel that their issue has been resolved?
  • axwy62axwy62 Member Posts: 140 Pioneering
    I've never been offered the opportunity to escalate my complaint before, but when this one goes nowhere, it is something I will ask about.

  • Pippa_AlumniPippa_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 5,851 Disability Gamechanger
    Hopefully doing so will move things forward for you @axwy62- please do keep us updated, and good luck!
  • susan48susan48 Member Posts: 2,229 Disability Gamechanger
    axwy62 said:
    I've never been offered the opportunity to escalate my complaint before, but when this one goes nowhere, it is something I will ask about.

    I would absolutely take this atrocious behaviour to the top, you’v ever right to use this service and made the company aware of the lift problem before your trip.

    The company should have a complaints procedure, mybe check there website and an ombudsman if your not happy with there decision.

    Good luck
  • axwy62axwy62 Member Posts: 140 Pioneering
    I've opted to wait until we're back in the UK before pursuing this to give us time to think through exactly what we want to achieve - I told the ferry company this immediately, and they responded with I should have involved the loading master (I did), I should have complained to the Purser immediately (I did), and sent me a voucher to use for my next crossing - all in all, an excellent example of how to make an irate customer even angrier and which got a response which poliltely suggested what they could do with their voucher.

    In the meantime we've changed our next two planned crossings to use different routes and as part of the complaint I intend to set out, step-by-step, how inconvenient each of them will be and exactly how much extra cost is involved.

    The following is a bit of 'thinking out loud' - comments and suggestions very welcome

    We've decided to approach this as the ferry company effectively preventing me from travelling on our chosen route, which they would only be permitted to do under EU regs on safety grounds or where it would make the operation of the service unreasonably difficult. Since we have travelled this route many times and been parked (eventually) in the most appropriate place, I don't think they can argue that either of those grounds apply, and this approach also gives us the option of going to ABTA if the complaint is not resolved.

    My argument will be that putting me in a situation where, at best, I have to argue with the loading staff every time amounts to refusing to carry me because it's unreasonable to expect me to put up with that level of stress and uncertainty, particularly after the latest fiasco. I've complied with the requirement to notify them at least 48 hours in advance (it's usually 3-6 months!), they either have to accommodate me without the necessity to argue about it or provide an explanation of why one of the exceptions applies now though it hasn't for any previous crossing.


  • tharathara Posts: 49 Member
    When we flew to Singapore last year I told the airline we needed a wheelchair. Even though I was pretty sure it was inaccessible to my son we went anyway. At the airport I was told that my non ambulatory child will have to walk independently through the stupid metal detectors. Why can’t they just accept that he does not walk unaided and ask if I can carry him (I’m fine with that honestly)? Sigh. 
  • TopkittenTopkitten Member Posts: 1,263 Pioneering
    @axwy62, I feel I should apologise because your description of the follow-up conversation made me laugh. I always thought that it was only my problems that, when described out loud, sounded like an act from a British Farce acted out on stage.

    @thara, I travelled to Italy late last year for a long weekend and I was allowed to remain on my mobility scooter to go through the metal detector. Obviously it triggered and they searched it but that was all. It was probably because it would have taken two strong men to carry me though it, lol! Maybe it depends on the airline and I would, if I were you, follow it up to find out what the actual rules are so that, if it happens again, you can tell them what is really supposed to happen.

    TK
    "I'm on the wrong side of heaven and the righteous side of hell" - from Wrong side of heaven by Five Finger Death Punch.
  • thespicemanthespiceman Member Posts: 6,408 Disability Gamechanger
    Hello @axwy62 Please can I say thank very saying to the community about your experiences. I am angry for you and annoyed. Obviously very distressing and upsetting.

    No wonder we need to look at how can we as a community deal with these horrendous treatments of us as people.

    I am appalled by the attitude of the people of the company responsible.  No one is taking or doing anything to make your life easier.

    We all of us want to travel as a community but this is making things worse. I feel for you and understand.

    Is it possible to speak to your local MP. Must be laws here to help and assist disabled members of our community.

    Does the Disability Discrimination Act come into force or that for workplaces or the Maritime Act should that be here in to effect. I am not sure .

    I know seeking the advice of a some one who is legal maybe. Like  CAB have a word or ATOS you mentioned do they not want to help.

    Wish you the best .

    Take care

    @thespiceman
    Community Champion
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  • axwy62axwy62 Member Posts: 140 Pioneering
    Topkitten said:
    @axwy62, I feel I should apologise because your description of the follow-up conversation made me laugh. I always thought that it was only my problems that, when described out loud, sounded like an act from a British Farce acted out on stage.

    You are forgiven, it was intended to be humourous on the grounds that if I didn't laugh ...

    @thara, I travelled to Italy late last year for a long weekend and I was allowed to remain on my mobility scooter to go through the metal detector. Obviously it triggered and they searched it but that was all. It was probably because it would have taken two strong men to carry me though it, lol! Maybe it depends on the airline and I would, if I were you, follow it up to find out what the actual rules are so that, if it happens again, you can tell them what is really supposed to happen.

    TK
    I fly fairly regularly, with my own chair. I've never had to go through the metal detector, I just get a body search.
  • axwy62axwy62 Member Posts: 140 Pioneering
    Hello @axwy62 Please can I say thank very saying to the community about your experiences. I am angry for you and annoyed. Obviously very distressing and upsetting.

    Thank you for the welcome

    No wonder we need to look at how can we as a community deal with these horrendous treatments of us as people.

    I am appalled by the attitude of the people of the company responsible.  No one is taking or doing anything to make your life easier.

    We all of us want to travel as a community but this is making things worse. I feel for you and understand.

    Is it possible to speak to your local MP. Must be laws here to help and assist disabled members of our community.

    From previous experience, my MP is about as useful as a chocolate fireguard but I'll keep it in mind as a back up plan

    Does the Disability Discrimination Act come into force or that for workplaces or the Maritime Act should that be here in to effect. I am not sure .

    The Equalities Act doesn't apply to ferry travel, there is an EU reg which says they have to allow me to travel and I'm using that in my complaint.

    I know seeking the advice of a some one who is legal maybe. Like  CAB have a word or ATOS you mentioned do they not want to help.

    It appears that legally, there's nothing I can do other than complain. Had the incident occurred prior to boarding, it would have been on UK territory and I could have reported it to the police as a hate crime and sued for damages under the Equality Act. Unfortunately, once on the ship I'm on French territory, but subject to Martime law.

    Wish you the best .

    Take care

    @thespiceman
    Thanks for the support, nice to know I'm not the only one that thinks this is unaccpetable. I'll update when I have some news.
  • axwy62axwy62 Member Posts: 140 Pioneering
    Initial response from a senior customer advisor (their description!) asking questions to clarify what usually happens during boarding - first suggestion is that they might be treating our vehicle as over height even though it isn't (it's a Landrover), but shot down when I told them the same thing happened in our previous car, which was lower than average.
    Second suggestion is there were too many wheelchair users to park us all by the accessible lift - there were no assistance vehicles parked by that lift at all, and there never have been on any other crossing either.
    May have convinced him that the real reason is it's more difficult to park people in a specific space near that lift as they're among the last vehicles to board, but we shall see.
  • Pippa_AlumniPippa_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 5,851 Disability Gamechanger
    Glad to hear there's been some progress, @axwy62. Really hope you'll continue being heard so the issue can be resolved. 
  • axwy62axwy62 Member Posts: 140 Pioneering
    I intend to take this all the way to Maritime and Coastguard Agency if I have to. Once I've exhausted the ferry company's complaints procedure, I can go to ABTA, and if they still won't make it reaonably easy for me to use this service, I can go to the MCA.
    I did get the impression that they're trying to sort it out even if their first efforts seemed more like excuses.
  • axwy62axwy62 Member Posts: 140 Pioneering
    So, I've had a response to my complaint. All jolly and happy and hope you'll travel with us again some time, but so far as guaranteeing that if you use this boat you will definitely be parked by the only lift you can access, sorry, tough, can't do or it might delay the ship departing for 30 seconds.

    The **** clearly hasn't even bothered to do any research or he would know that we use this route on average 5 times a year and have done for 10 years, sorry for the implied foul language but my blood pressure has just jumped to 'explosion imminent' and I've disabled the send button in my email programme in case I press it accidentally - I wouldn't even let my husband read my initial reaction!

    I shall (probably) cool down overnight. 

    As always, any suggestions welcome, but try not to get me arrested!
  • newbornnewborn Member Posts: 683 Pioneering
    edited August 2018
    Under  E.U and/or under Maritime is Hate Crime and/or Equalities offence officially  lawful?

    My litmus test is to try an analogy with Racism (the Equality that shouts it's name, and sends every beaurocrat and jobsworth hiding under his desk in terror)

    So,  just suppose a bunch of drunk passengers, or a power drunk crew, insult one passenger, based on racist discrimination .  This makes using the service unreasonably difficult or impossible  to access.   

     Does all international and maritime law say that is perfectly fine?

     If not, what is the remedy, the enforcement, redress, and compensation, the exemplary fine on the company, the withdrawal of their licence to operate, the fear of fines or of imprisonment faced by culpable parties in the management and staff?
  • axwy62axwy62 Member Posts: 140 Pioneering
    The more I thought about the response the more it was obvious the guy hadn't read the information I sent, so I emailed first thing this morning and asked. He hadn't seen it and was working from my Tripadvisor review only, which of course only gave very limited details.
    I resent it and dropped a massive hint that he needs to reconsider his response and also highlighted the 'breach of EU regulations' bit again.
    Bottom line is that if it's not resolved within 8 weeks of the date of my complaint I can go to ABTA, and then if they still don't play ball, to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA)
    My husband is Merchant Marine, very senior, knows how the MCA works, and assures me that the operator definitely won't want them to be involved as it's likely to prove extremely expensive. Shame.
  • mikehughescqmikehughescq Member Posts: 6,002 Disability Gamechanger
  • axwy62axwy62 Member Posts: 140 Pioneering
  • axwy62axwy62 Member Posts: 140 Pioneering
    Final response from Brittany Ferries (oops, I might have named the company!!!!).

    They are effectively calling me a liar. My chair apparently will go around all the corners. Silly me for not being able to manage it, I must be doing something wrong!

    Does anyone know a press contact who might be interested given the recent focus on access to public transport?
  • crackercracker Member Posts: 324 Pioneering
    How demeaning. My first thought was the press. The company will not respond respectfully. The press, I think, would change their behaviour right away.

    I would think the press might respond to you if you contacted them. Your story does need to be out there not only to pull this company into line but to set an example for others wh o have had th is sort if deplorable treatment.
  • axwy62axwy62 Member Posts: 140 Pioneering
    Cracker, thank you for your support. To say I am furious, not just with the original incident but now also with this 'senior customer service advisor', would be the understatement of the year.
  • mikehughescqmikehughescq Member Posts: 6,002 Disability Gamechanger
    I would start with someone like Tanni Grey-Thompson on social Medusa as well as your local newspaper. Nothing annoys the national media more than appearing to have missed a good story.
  • axwy62axwy62 Member Posts: 140 Pioneering
    The legal department from the Ferry company are now involved, and things may finally be moving forward.

    The cynical me thinks everything will be fine for our next crossing on this ship (not til next May because there's a replacement on the route over the winter) and possibly even the one after that, then we'll be back to square one again but at least they've now admitted that they do have to accomodate me by the accessible lift in everything but exceptional circumstances such as that lift breaking down.

    I shall hopefully report further progess in due course, but it may not be until next year.
  • sarah50sarah50 Member Posts: 119 Pioneering
    Hi @awxy62 first of all I would like to say I am blown away by your. awesome attitude to get what your entitled to. Secondly reading of your experience has made me really angry on your behalf. There have been a couple of reports on the national news regarding similar problems wheelchair users have had on trains, so there may be some interest from them if you choose to go in that direction. Best of luck 🍀
  • crackercracker Member Posts: 324 Pioneering
    We have here  a Federal mandate which requires workplaces, transportation and public buildings give "reasonable accommodation for those with disabilities; They in the process of amending facilities and transportation to be all wheel chair accessible. And a discriminatory attitude is part of the law.

    Do you have something like this in the UK?

    Kudos for pursuing this. 
  • axwy62axwy62 Member Posts: 140 Pioneering
    sarah50 said:
    Hi @awxy62 first of all I would like to say I am blown away by your. awesome attitude to get what your entitled to. Secondly reading of your experience has made me really angry on your behalf. There have been a couple of reports on the national news regarding similar problems wheelchair users have had on trains, so there may be some interest from them if you choose to go in that direction. Best of luck 🍀
    Thank you for your support. There is some local media interest which might be picked up nationally, however I would prefer to resolve the issue more or less amicably as we really have no choice but to continue using this particular operator.
  • axwy62axwy62 Member Posts: 140 Pioneering
    cracker said:
    We have here  a Federal mandate which requires workplaces, transportation and public buildings give "reasonable accommodation for those with disabilities; They in the process of amending facilities and transportation to be all wheel chair accessible. And a discriminatory attitude is part of the law.

    Do you have something like this in the UK?

    Kudos for pursuing this. 
    Thank you for your support.
    We do have an Equality Act which applies in most circumstances, but not unfortunately to ferry companies. The only think I can rely on at the moment is an EU regulation which makes it compulsory for the ferry company to accomodate me unless doing so would be unsafe, e.g. they couldn't get me to a life boat in an emergency or something like that. I'm proceeding on the basis that making access involve, at best, a very heated argument with the loading crew amounts to refusing to carry me at all.
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