Gatwick airport disability support assistance, Purple Parking and Malta.

As you may have guessed, my wife and I travelled to Malta, via Gatwick using Purple parking as the preferred parking provider. We have used Purple Parking many times before, and expected this part to be OK, but not sure about getting into Gatwick airport, or onwards, and upwards.

Firstly, Purple Parking was absolutely atrocious. Their coach stops nowhere near to the terminal, the coach itself is freezing, and their terminal near to Charlwood, has been altered significantly that it offers little help to the disabled traveller when finally collecting a vehicle.

In short, the Purple Parking company could not care less about the traveller with disabilities. I will not use this Purple Parking company again as they were absolutely abhorrent.

We did manage to arrive at the point at Gatwick where support is available, after a considerable walk (for me). The support button is at the ground floor of a set of lifts, level one is the drop off points for Easyjet and others.

Whoever was the help at the end of the support phone, it was pretty useless. I had rung Gatwick airport assistance previously, and advised to use this support button to contact support. It was pretty useless. It suggested we move to level 2. There was nobody there??

We moved to level 1 as this was where the drop off points were, and took advice from a member of the airport staff, thankyou.

We did eventually find another support phone on level 1 which offered the same level of support, i.e. not a lot. I think maybe you need a different person at your end of the phone, maybe??

Eventually, a support person came and helped us to travel into the airport, and the rather nice Lounge.

Sometime later, we were again moved from this Lounge area to the relevant gate. All of those receiving support were taken to a sepcific gate number where a member of staff appeared to be in training, and a very large queue of disabled peoiple began to collect.

After this interesting interval which was probably only fifteen minutes, a largish group of people were awaiting transport to the aircraft (on more than one flight). The loader is like a mini trailer with seating and room for wheelchairs. It is motorised and has a lift plate at one end, similar to loading a lorry. It works. This motorised container of people is then transported to the relevant aircraft where is it is lifted to become an entry portal into the aeroplane. This works well.

What did not work very well was the levels of local traffic entering the airport to gain access to the planes. In fact we spent over an hour being driven around Gatwick trying to get to the plane. I have no idea what the issue was, but the best part was actually a member of the support team repeatedly promised that we would not miss our airplane, as we had been logged in to fly. This was very important, as you can imagine that an airplane waiting an hour for a disabled transporter is far from perfect, and very stressful, and they could have unloaded our bags if they had wanted. The good news was that after an hour or so, and this was past the original leaving time, we were loaded onto the easyJet flight to Malta. The flight was eventually about an hour and a half late.

The only downside to the easyJet flight was their food in which they could not even supply a plate , but instead it was eaten out of a readymix package they supplied. The picture in their magazine looked entirely different. Shocking cheapskate stuff, and totally avoidable with just a cheap plastic plate required.

I will cover the return flight to England before discussing Malta airport (which was brilliant).

Our return flight to the UK, again withe easyJet, again running about an hour and a half late was OK. We were loaded onto the flight initially by the support team at Malta, and arrived back at Gatwick close to midnight.

The exit from the plane is after all normal passengers have alighted, and in this case included just two support men transporting about six disabled persons from the one flight, plus partners alongside. These guys were incredible, and this was walking / pushing us all, up a long, sloping corridor to their electric vehicles. From here, we were all transported via passports, security and to luggage collection. We asked if we could be transported as far as the coach drop off, but were happy to be taken as far as the entry to the airport. I felt awkward asking for more!

It is a very long walk back to Purple Parking coaches drop-off point which is much further away from the terminal than in earlier days of travel, but this was just about manageable, albeit quite slowly in the cold midnight air.

The coach arrived, and after a very cold drive, it dropped us off at their office near the airport, where the car was a considerable walk from their office. There is little help towards those requiring assistance, and we struggled to get into the car after defrosting etc, and finding our way around the car park. It was not a good experience, and it will not be repeated, as Purple Parking are absolutely, and completely, useless for helping those with disabilites.

So, Gatwick Assistance was brilliant some of the time, but still needs a bit more support to make it workable.

Malta was an en entirely different story to Gatwick, but then the airport is tiny. The outward flight was followed by a member of their support team transporting us all of the way to the exit, and we opted for a taxi as the weather was not great. Buses are a cheaper option, but they do not offer much in the way of luggae space.

We opted for the taxis operating out of the airport, which cost thirty euros. Our return taxi using a company called Bolt was about twenty one Euros, you just need the app installed on your phone, a bit like Uber at home. We used their taxis quite a lot when in Malta for our stay, and they were very quick to respond, and also reasonable. I think the first couple of times we used them were a very special deal, and very cheap indeed.

Our return flight home at Malta was a bit more erratic, but the support was again very good between check-in and the aeroplane, and overall a very good experience.

We stayed at an AX hotel chain in St Pauls bay / Buggiba which is part of the International Hotel Group. The hotel was large, clean, the staff were exceptional, and the food was nice. The only thing they did not mention as part of the booking was that there was a convention for over five hundred people during the week we stayed at the hotel.

If there are five hundred people who never leave the hotel, and the five hundred people have the entirety of the public areas set aside for them during large parts of the day, and they also feel that they are entitled to every bit of space, including where you may be sitting, it does not lead to a great holiday break, in fact it was downright disgusting.

The people on the convention were mostly Middle Eastern, North African with a hint of Bible bashing, anti-abortion, Trumpite Americans (MENA). All in all, many were extremely obnoxious to our needs on our holiday, as were the hotel who seemed more interested in profit than the plight of their holidaymakers.

Incidentally, on the last day of departure, we got chatting to a group of English travellers who were on a special deal of four weeks for the price of three weeks holiday, and they were told that this week of the convention was the free one! I did not get offered a free one! We escaped the war zone by spending most of the days away from the hotel, a bit like a Pontins trip from an eon earlier which was also the most un-enjoyed holiday ever. The IHG team, and their hotels have now been compared with Pontins holiday camp for good reason.