Sheffield arthritis patient wins legal battle against holiday firm after airport hell

Arthritis sufferer Janice Campbell outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London after winning her battle in the Court of Appeal for the right to damages after package tour operators Thomas Cook failed to find her a seat or a wheelchair. John Aston/PA Wire
Arthritis sufferer Janice Campbell outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London after winning her battle in the Court of Appeal for the right to damages after package tour operators Thomas Cook failed to find her a seat or a wheelchair. John Aston/PA Wire
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An arthritis sufferer from Sheffield who stood in an airport queue for four hours because her tour operator failed to find her a seat or wheelchair has won a legal battle for damages.

Janice Campbell, aged 67, from Sheffield, sued Thomas Cook on the grounds their failure to help was discrimination.

The travel firm appealed but three senior judges threw out the appeal.

Afterwards, Mrs Campbell, who suffers from arthritis in her neck, back and right hip and gets migraines said: “All I wanted was a seat.

“Hopefully this very good judgment will make a difference.”

She was among hundreds of tourists flown back to the UK after civil unrest erupted in Tunisia in January 2011.

On January 14 2011 she was made to stand for four hours at Monastir Airport, waiting for a flight.

When she informed staff she was unable to stand for long periods she was told ‘there is nothing we can do’ despite seeing other people being transported in wheelchairs.

She was told if she did not move to join another queue she would be left behind.

She was not flown back to the UK until January 16 and suffered bouts of vomiting while waiting for a second day at the airport.

A spokeswoman for Thomas Cook apologised to Mrs Campbell but said the ‘urgent nature’ of the repatriation meant it was not possible to arrange the necessary assistance.

Awarding damages against Thomas Cook Tour Operations Ltd last May, Judge Geoffrey Robinson, said ‘nothing effective’ had been done to alleviate her suffering.

He said: “This is such a clear case that it is, frankly, a simple case of the defendant failing to act with common humanity towards a person in obvious difficulty and distress.”

The appeal was fast-tracked to clarify the law for disabled travellers visiting countries outside the EU.

The firm argued she was not entitled to be compensated for failures outside the EU.

But appeal judges said the decision was ‘impressive, well-reasoned and right’.

Douglas Johnson from Sheffield Law Centre who supported Mrs Campbell said: “We want to build up awareness among tour operator staff from management downwards of the ordinary needs of disabled people, and the fact that most of the time it is very easy to meet these needs.”