Can-Do-Ability: Answers and Solutions from my personal experiences of living with a disability

More Discrimination..... Jetstar Does It Again!

19 Apr 2011Last week, New Zealand disability advocates, Tanya Black and Dan Buckingham, who both use a manual wheelchair, were unable to board their flight with Jetstar, because the captain believed they required a carer each, to be able to travel.

When Tanya, Dan, and one of their able bodied colleagues went to board their flight from Auckland to Wellington, they were asked by the cabin crew to wait outside the aeroplane’s doors while everyone else boarded. After lengthy discussion with Jetstar staff, which ultimately delayed the flight by 20 minutes, the pair learnt that the captain had an issue in regards to letting them fly without each being accompanied by a carer.

Despite them both living alone, having fulltime jobs, driving their own cars, travelling on planes, including Jetstar’s, numerous times, and the fact that they were on their way to Wellington to discuss changing people’s attitudes towards people with disabilities with some government officials, flight staff insisted on denying them access to the aircraft. Advising the pair, that if they could find an anonymous person on the flight to act as one of their carers, then they would be granted permission to board.

In the end, the staff agreed to let the three passenger’s board, as long as they didn’t go to the media with their story. The pair was so disgusted with the way the matter was handled, and how they had been treated, that they refused the airline’s offer, and decided to abandon their flight. They ended up buying new tickets to Wellington with Air New Zealand.

A spokesperson for Jetstar, has reportedly told the New Zealand press, the captain was concerned that the pair would need assistance during their short one-hour flight, to use the bathroom. Therefore he decided that they would require a carer each.

The spokesperson also raised the fact, that in the Jetstar booking terms and conditions, their policy states that if a passenger needs assistance boarding, they were required to be accompanied by a carer at all times.

Disability campaigners are fuelled with anger, reporting to the press that this is an utter case of discrimination. There are laws against this type of behaviour towards people with disabilities. As one person commented in the original article in The Dominion Post website, http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/4879583/Jetstar-stops-disabled-pair-flying there is the reasonable adjustments clause in the Disability Discrimination Act, which states that; where possible, reasonable adjustments must be made for a person with a disability.

This clause was written for employment purposes, but surely, when feasible, if a person with a disability feels that they will be fine without the assistance of a carer, there are ways around certain policies and procedures. After all, we do usually know what’s best for us, rather than listening to some corporate suits’ rules of how things should and shouldn’t be for us.

There have been many reports over the years about Jetstar’s lack of customer service, when it comes to people with disabilities travelling on their aircrafts.

I reported a year ago about Australian Paralympian, Kurt Fernley, being refused entry past check-in, unless he surrendered his wheelchair. He was being forced to check his wheelchair in as baggage and use an airport wheelchair, which requires a carer to push it at all times, until he boarded his flight. He refused to use an airport wheelchair and instead, crawled through airport to his plane.

This attracted a lot of media attention at the time and gave other disabled people a voice. The airline later apologised and it is now a well-known fact that no-one HAS to check their wheelchair in at the check-in gate if they do not want to. I never do, as I am independent and don’t want to be pushed around by someone until I get on my flight, so as much as a lot of people called Kurt a whinger, I definitely sympathised with him.

It is actually against the law to force someone out of their wheelchair if it is not completely necessary. It is more of an issue of laziness of the airport staff, rather than what their policies are. I always will refuse to give up my legs if I don’t want to, and I urge anyone else to do the same.

I say good on the New Zealand pair for standing up (so to speak) for their rights, and not being bullied by people who have no idea what it’s like to be in their shoes. Do you have any interesting aeroplane stories involving wheelchairs or mobility equipment? Tell me about them.


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Previous Comments

Mervyn from Bundaberg posted on 22 Jul 2014
When traveling from Sydney to Brisbane Jetstar left my wheelchair in Sydney. I had to sit on their hard chair for about 8 hours waiting for my chair. Hence I suffered severe pressure sore to the buttock and 8 months in hospital to repair it.MervynIf you have a similar story please email [email protected]

Bil Simpson from Brisbane posted on 18 Dec 2011
Jetstar have not changed! Iam a T12 Incomplete Paraplegic and had 2 issues with Jetstar not bring my chair to the Aircraft door on arrival.

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