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Gay Paralympian forced to ‘drag herself’ off plane after being left without wheelchair

Joe Williams November 10, 2015

Claire Harvey claims she was forced to drag herself off a flight after being left alone on a plane.

The Team GB athlete has opened up about the “completely humiliating” experience, during which she was forced to drag herself off a plane – operated by the official airline of the Paralympic World Championship – after staff manhandled her and referred to her as “the wheelchair”.

The sportswoman said she had been hoping to rest her injured shoulder as she returned home early after competing in the discus and javelin at the recent world championships in Doha.

Instead, Ms Harvey described how she was forced to use the aircraft’s seats “like monkey bars” – putting her weight on her hands to drag herself to the front as she left the Qatar Airways flight.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4, she said that the “nightmare” started after she overheard a member of the flight staff refer to her as “the wheelchair” while talking to a colleague.

She was also then given a aisle seat by the airline, rather than being next to a window, meaning those next to her had to “literally climb over” her to go to the toilet.

And when all other passengers left, she was told there was no special aisle wheelchair onboard to take her to the front.

Describing the experience, Ms Harvey said: “A steward said ‘you have to leave now” and started to manhandle me. I was 49 rows back.

“I ended up having to utilise the seats either side of the aisle almost like monkey bars, taking my weight on my hands and dragging myself to the front, with him pushing me to go faster.”

Given her ordeal, the athlete said she was shocked by Qatar Airways’ chief executive Akbar Al Baker statement four days later.

He said the airline was both “honoured and proud” to have been the official carrier of the Paralympic World Championships and hoped “all left with pleasant memories”.

Following Ms Harvey’s revelation, a spokesman for the airline said: ‘Qatar Airways is fully committed to providing a five-star service to all. For passengers with disabilities, we ensure cabin crew are properly trained to provide assistance.

“We are investigating this incident fully and will respond to Ms Harvey shortly.”

More: Claire Harvey, disabled, lesbian, paralympics, Qatar

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