Paraplegic man who dragged himself through airport is dropping legal action
A paraplegic man who was left to drag himself through a British airport by staff has decided to drop legal action.
Justin Levene, an international wheelchair athlete and mentor to disabled athletes, was forced to pull himself along the floor, before sitting on a luggage trolley, after his self-propelled wheelchair was forgotten by staff and left behind on his flight.
A video that showed the 30-year-old struggling to move through Luton airport with his hands quickly went viral last week, with a spokesman for Luton Airport claiming he was offered assistance and turned it down.
After the incident took place in August, Levene - who lost the ability to walk after an operation that aimed to fix a herniated disc went wrong - claimed to feel "humiliated" and said he would be beginning legal action.
Now, however, he has backed down, stating that Luton airport has "improved their disabled facilities."
Speaking to the BBC, he said that his claim was "never about money" but instead about helping disabled travellers.
"If Luton now has self-propelling wheelchairs and a loan system in case of loss or damage to a wheelchair, then I'm delighted with this outcome," he said. "This was never about money, it was about trying to get a change in policy. I am happy to drop my legal claim because Luton has taken on board my concerns and improved their disabled facilities for the better."
Level, who is paralysed below the waist and reliant on his self-propelling wheelchair, continued: "I hope that media coverage has helped raise awareness of issues around the mobility needs of disabled travellers. We simply want to get from A to B with as much dignity and independence as possible."
Staff at Luton Airport had offered to push the athlete through arrivals on a rigid high-backed chair, but the 30-year-old declined as he felt it took away his independence and would leave him "humiliated and degraded".
Discussing their "improved facilities", a spokesperson for Luton Airport stated that the building now had 10 self-propelled wheelchairs.
As well as the chairs, based permanently at the airport, the airport also has a loan replacement system whereby it lends people equipment - such as wheelchairs - free of charge. It will also organise and fund the returns process.
They claimed that, in the future, when pre-notification of a requirement for very specialised mobility equipment was received, a local disability resource centre would assist them in sourcing such items.
Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson told ITV's Good Morning Britain that the result Mr Levene had achieved was "amazing".
"This is the reality for a lot of disabled people. You get left on planes, you get left for sometimes a couple of hours," she said. "Last week I decided to crawl off a train because it didn't appear that anyone was coming to get me."