Jetstar has been accused of failing to provide disability access because their A320 aircraft do not offer aisle wheelchairs.
A paraplegic man claims he couldn’t access the toilet on flights from Busselton in WA to Melbourne.
The airline says space constraints on the A320 aircraft means they cannot provide aisle wheelchairs.
Disability access failure means man cannot travel
Darren Haunold said he discovered the lack of aisle wheelchair availability when he tried to book a flight.
Haunold has been living with paraplegia for 31-years and said he was shocked by the lack of disability access:
“I’ve travelled all over the world and never had a situation where an airline has denied access to an aisle chair on a plane to access the toilet.
“It was really discouraging for me to feel that Jetstar simply weren’t interested in meeting the needs of passengers like myself.”
Haunold runs a winery and saw the direct flight as a chance to connect with producers on the east coast.
Jetstar responds ‘abruptly’
He spoke to a member of Jetstar’s customer service team, and described the conversation as “abrupt and harsh”.
In a statement, Jetstar offered an apology to Haunold:
“Each year we carry around 60,000 customers with wheelchairs, but there are several operational and safety factors that we must adhere to when doing so.
“We contacted Mr Haunold and explained that he is more than welcome to fly with us, but space constraints on our A320 aircraft means we are unable to provide wheelchairs to move about the cabin during the flight.”
As part of Jetstar’s policy, if a passenger does not meet independent traveller requirements they must be accompanied by a passenger who can assist them to access the toilet or eat a meal.
Haunold does not feel he needs in-flight support, and said he has no choice but to fly out of Perth, resulting in an additional six hours travel time to the airport.
Need for stronger legislation
Greens Senator and disability advocate Jordan Steele-John said the incident is common.
“They are not only in the dark ages on this issue, they’re belligerently attempting to stay there,” he said.
“Jetstar, particularly, are repeat offenders in this area.
“I think the time has come for them to absolutely change their attitude and ensure that their services are accessible for their customers.”
Disability discrimination is unlawful
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from Human Rights Claims says disability discrimination is unlawful.
“You cannot treat someone unfairly because of an impairment or disability,” he said.
“The only exception to this is if an organisation can show that accommodating people with disabilities will impose unjustifiable hardship.
“For example, a small company having to pay for the installation of an expensive lift.
“In this case, I find it extraordinary that a company like Jetstar doesn’t have wheelchair availability on all of its flights.”
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