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Ashford family's British Airways flight 'hell'

By Aidan Barlow

A mum has described how her family trip to paradise turned into a holiday hell when her disabled son fell ill on the flight home.

Rachel Thomas was travelling with British Airways to Cancun, Mexico, with her husband Luke, their then 18-month-old son Pierce and their then seven-year-old son Hugo, who has Down’s Syndrome.

She was also travelling with father Timothy and mother Kim Davison, who is disabled with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and also suffers from diabetes.

It was meant to be the holiday of a lifetime but it descended into chaos on the return flight, when they realised that Hugo was listed to be sat on his own for the 10-hour flight, where he suffered severe vomiting and diarrhoea.

Rachel Thomas with husband Luke Thomas and their children Pierce and Hugo.

Rachel Thomas with husband Luke Thomas and their children Pierce and Hugo.

Mrs Thomas, 35, says she had been planning the £10,000 trip with a travel company for months in advance, and was told the family would be sat together, only to find out otherwise at the airport.

She said: “We had some problems on the first flight, which they said would be sorted for the return flight, but it wasn’t.

“My son has Down’s syndrome and sensory problems. As a mother there was no way I could allow him to sit on his own. He could be a danger on his own and go and open the door.”

Mrs Thomas said she received no help from British Airways ground staff at Cancun to resolve the problem, and was left trying to sort out the issue on board.

Rachel Thomas with her husband Luke and sons Hugo and Pierce enjoying their holiday on the beach

Rachel Thomas with her husband Luke and sons Hugo and Pierce enjoying their holiday on the beach

She said: “One man got a bit short with Hugo because he was grabbing the tray up and down. I was worried that if my temper went that I would get thrown off the flight. I was frightened and stressed.

“This was my nightmare. I thought that all our seats were done and sorted before we left. If I had known otherwise I would have cancelled the holiday.”

A man in a neighbouring seat to Hugo agreed to move elsewhere on the flight so she could sit with him, while her husband looked after Pierce.

Mrs Thomas added: “Hugo started vomiting on the flight and had diarrhoea. It was so bad I had to put him in a sleeping bag. He was out cold. It was just horrendous.

“It turned into a holiday from hell, and the last straw was him sitting on his own, I thought this is diabolical.”

Hugo’s saturation levels plummeted and when he arrived back there was an ambulance crew awaiting him on the ground.

Rachel Thomas and husband Luke Thomas with sons Hugo and Pierce on a glass-bottom boat on their holidays

Rachel Thomas and husband Luke Thomas with sons Hugo and Pierce on a glass-bottom boat on their holidays

She raised a complaint to British Airways customer relations over the trip, which took place in September 2015, but has been told that she won’t receive compensation, though she said she is more concerned with BA acknowledging the mistake.

In a reply to the family's complaint, British Airways denied that Hugo was left to sit on his own. It said the flight from Cancun was very busy and there were also other passengers who required additional support on board.

"Our cabin crew reassured her that the group was free to swap seats among themselves, to ensure that her son would not be say on his own." - British Airways

Mrs Thomas' parents were given oxygen on board and BA insists their medical needs were met.

The company also said the family were seated together with three seats on one row and two seats behind, so that there was no need for Hugo to be on his own.

In a statement the company said: "We're very sorry for the upset a misunderstanding at the airport caused, and have been in contact with Mrs Thomas to address her concerns.

"Our cabin crew reassured her that the group was free to swap seats among themselves, to ensure that her son would not be say on his own."

Meanwhile in an email to Mrs Thomas, the company states has not offered compensation. The email states: "We have to be consistent so we're fair to all of our customers.

"This means we cannot make an exception this time. We're grateful you've taken the time to let us know what happened, as it's only through your feedback that we're able to focus on areas where we need to improve."

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