A DISABLED cancer survivor says she feels trapped on her Hebridean island after becoming too heavy to be lifted on to a plane.
Fiona MacKinnon, 54, claims she can no longer travel on a Loganair flight from Tiree to Glasgow for her regular cancer treatments.
She said: “It feels like I’m being banned because I’m disabled.
“I’m being discriminated against because of my disability.”
“Airlines should make sure people with disabilities are able to travel like everybody else, but I can’t.
“I feel trapped, isolated and humiliated.”
Fiona has dystonia, a neurological condition that severely restricts her mobility. She walks with the aid of crutches and uses a stairlift at home.
This means she can’t climb the 12 steps to the Twin Otter Loganair plane at Tiree Airport.
The artist, who lives alone in Kirkapol, had previously used an S-Max stairclimber – a mechanised system that helps pull a wheelchair up a flight of stairs. But in February Fiona was told by Loganair that she could not use the device if she weighed more than the 120kg safety limit.
A Loganair representative told Fiona her only option would be to call an air ambulance.
“I felt humiliated. It’s ludicrous they would suggest that. The air ambulance is for emergencies, it’s not a taxi service,” added Fiona.
Fiona was diagnosed with rare blood cancer follicular lymphoma in 2014.
She used the airline to travel to the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre in Glasgow every three weeks for six months for chemotherapy. She still makes the journey twice a year for check-ups, the next is in November.
Steroid treatments made her weight rise significantly. Despite having lost weight since, Fiona is just over the 120kg limit.
“I’m losing weight but the nature of my disability means it fluctuates,” she said.
“It will be an inconvenience to weigh myself every time I want to fly.”
The UK Civil Aviation Authority said: “Under EU law, an airline can only refuse a passenger travel for safety or security reasons or because a wheelchair is not able to fit through the doors of the aircraft.
“In general, airlines rely on airports to have the right equipment and we are concerned that, in this case, that does not appear to have happened.”
Loganair said: “Due to the strict maximum weight for safe operation of the airport’s lifting device and the aircraft’s built-in steps, we have asked the customer to verify their weight for her safety and the structural integrity of the Twin Otter.
“No alternative lifting capability is suitable for a Twin Otter aircraft, given its size and the location of the aircraft’s door and steps. We’re aware this is an inconvenience but the safety of our passengers and employees must be our priority.”
Stair climbing equipment with weight limits exceeding 120kg is available.
But the airline’s maximum weight allowance for their aircraft door is 180kg and that must include the weight of the passenger, stair climber and two individuals to operate it.
Responsibility for providing appropriate lifting equipment for disabled passengers lies with Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL), which operates Tiree Airport.
They said: “We work very closely with all our airline operators to facilitate passengers within the constraints imposed by the various aircraft types operating around the HIAL network. HIAL provides the necessary equipment, training and staff to ensure passengers can access and exit aircraft safely and with dignity.”
Fiona has also taken her case to Transport Minister Humza Yousaf and Donald Cameron, MSP for Highlands and Islands.
Mr Cameron told The Sunday Post: “HIAL and Loganair need to rectify this case as soon as possible.
“I will continue to support Ms MacKinnon in seeking an appropriate solution which will allow her to get to her appointments on the mainland with dignity and respect.”
Iain Smith, of disability charity Incluson Scotland, said: “Under EU regulations, airports and airlines are obliged to give disabled people the same opportunities to travel as any other citizen, by employing staff and equipment to meet the particular needs of the disabled person.
“If the equipment being used by HIAL and Loganair is not suitable to meet Fiona’s needs, they have a legal duty to find a solution that does enable Fiona to fly.”