War hero Ben Parkinson ‘upset’ by treatment on Thomas Cook flight

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A national airline is facing criticism after war hero Ben Parkinson was told, ‘It’s not my problem’, when he asked why the plane did not have adequate disabled facilities.

Lance Bombardier Ben, who lost both legs and broke his back, hips and ribs in a mine blast in Afghanistan in 2006, was travelling on a Thomas Cook flight from Cyprus with five fellow servicemen on a trip with charity Pilgrim Bandits.

But upon boarding the flight members of the charity requested Ben, aged 30, be given use of an aisle chair – a wheelchair capable of fitting down the aisles of an aeroplane, used by people with reduced mobility.

The group was told there were no aisle seats available on board and, as a result, none of the injured servicemen travelling were able to use access the plane’s bathroom for the duration of the four-hour flight.

When a member of the group mentioned the problem as they waited to exit the flight, a first officer is alleged to have said: “It’s not my problem. Thank you for flying Thomas Cook.”

Ben’s mum, Diane Dernie, told The Star: “Ben was really upset by that.”

Stressing the rest of the flight crew had been ‘lovely’, the 56-year-old added: “He was just a very arrogant man. I don’t know whether he’d had a bad day or what but he just wasn’t interested in what we were telling him.

“The others were mostly really apologetic.

“Some of the crew even offered to give Ben a piggyback up the aisle which he thought was funny because they were so tiny.

“It was worrying though, because if something had gone wrong, Ben wouldn’t have been able to get up the aisle.

“Thomas Cook have since apologised and promised to ensure they can offer aisle chairs on all flights used by disabled people, which is all we wanted.”

A Pilgrim Bandits spokesman confirmed Thomas Cook had offered an ‘unreserved apology’.

According to Thomas Cook’s website an on-board wheelchair is provided on all flights for people who require one.

A spokesman for Thomas Cook Airlines said: “We’d like to sincerely apologise to Mr Parkinson and his family and assure them that Thomas Cook Airlines takes its responsibilities to disabled customers very seriously.

“We immediately launched a full investigation into the issues raised by Mr Parkinson about his flight this weekend and we are contacting him as a matter of urgency.”