UK

Wheelchair user with car stuck at Luton Airport misses meetings and funeral

Andrew Miller, with his husband, Tim Meacock (Andrew Miller)
Andrew Miller, with his husband, Tim Meacock (Andrew Miller) Andrew Miller, with his husband, Tim Meacock (Andrew Miller)

A wheelchair user whose vehicle was parked in a Luton Airport car park when fire devastated it earlier in October said he is still without his bespoke car, and as such has missed in-person business meetings and a funeral.

Andrew Miller, 56 from Northamptonshire, parked his automatic Citroen DS 3 on the ground floor of Luton Airport’s Terminal Car Park 2 in the blue badge parking zone on October 8, before taking a trip to Ireland with his husband.

They returned to the airport on the afternoon of October 12, and Mr Miller, who has a complex spinal condition and has always been a wheelchair user, said there was no-one from the airport or APCOA, its parking provider, to give him information on how to return home.

In response to Mr Miller’s situation, a spokesperson for London Luton Airport had offered “sincere apologies” for any distress or inconvenience caused.

Now almost two weeks later, he said his situation has not changed, with no information given about the state of his vehicle, the back of which he can see in the car park in photographs.

Luton Airport fire
Luton Airport fire Andrew Miller’s Citroen DS 3 which is ‘bespoke’ to his access needs (Andrew Miller/PA)

He said his insurance company instructed a car hire company to find him a courtesy vehicle, but they have been unable to do so.

“I’ve had no courtesy car and no ability to get mobile, meanwhile I’ve had to pull out of attending in-person business meetings, I even missed a colleague’s funeral, as a consequence of not having my own car,” he told the PA news agency.

“My partner has taken time out to accompany me to several events in Manchester and London last week.

“For many disabled people, like me, personal independence is everything. You take away our cars, you take away our independence and our ability to lead our lives.

“My independence has been completely taken away by this fire.”

Mr Miller, a broadcaster, cultural consultant and disability campaigner, said his insurance company got in touch to offer a “derisory and frankly mean” £100 in lieu of a courtesy car.

He said he has received the generic updates from the airport regarding the incident, but has had no bespoke communication regarding his car or situation, tweeting the companies involved with no response.

Luton Airport fire
Luton Airport fire The scene at Luton Airport after a fire ripped through level three of the airport’s Terminal Car Park 2 (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

He said: “It’s abundantly clear that the processes that have been put in place to support drivers involved in the Luton fire have not included any plans to support disabled people with bespoke needs.

“It’s quite extraordinary how little support anyone has offered in this situation, I’ve basically been left to sort it all out myself.”

Mr Miller said that if he is forced to find a replacement car, he will then have to get the hand controls fitted, which cost £500 to replace and take a week to put in.

The result is that he is having to make further arrangements so he can meet his commitments, restricting his flexibility.

“I can’t be spontaneous in anything that I’m doing,” he said.

“I’m very, very restricted. So if my doctor rings up and says, ‘we’ve arranged some antibiotics for you’, I can’t jump in my car and go and get them. I have to get my partner to go and do that for me.

“That’s robbing me of mobility, it’s an independence that I would normally have.”

Neil Thompson, operations director at London Luton Airport, said: “We know this has been a distressing time and we have every sympathy with all those affected.

“We have always been clear that most cars will be unsalvageable. From the outset, customers have been advised to contact their insurer and we have worked hard to provide all the required information so insurance companies can progress claims as quickly as possible.

“We continue to provide our customers with regular updates, but as the car park remains unsafe, we are unable to provide information about individual vehicles. We are pleased to hear that many claims have already been settled.”

A spokesperson for APCOA said: “Due to the instability of the car park structure which was severely damaged by the fire, unfortunately we still don’t have access to it. As a result, we have been unable to provide any customers with bespoke information about their individual vehicles.

“APCOA and London Luton Airport have tried to keep all customers informed as the situation has evolved by sending regular email updates and publishing detailed information and guidance on our websites and social media.

“All customers have been advised to contact their insurance company to progress a claim and the relevant information has been provided to the insurers to support that process.

“We have every sympathy with all customers who have been affected by this major incident.”