Stranded: disability discrimination complaint highlights Jetstar failure to provide assistance to wheelchair user

Sydney man Tony Jones has lodged a disability discrimination complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission after Jetstar refused to help him transfer from his electric wheelchair to a Jetstar aisle chair, in contravention of Jetstar’s own policy. As a result, Mr Jones was left stranded at Sydney airport, unable to travel on the flight he booked.

‘Public transport needs to be accessible to everyone,’ said PIAC Senior Solicitor, Erin Turner Manners. ‘Mr Jones is one of many passengers who have encountered poor treatment, including effective denial of service, trying to access air travel as airlines and airports continue to fail people with disability.’

Mr Jones is Policy & Advocacy Manager at Spinal Cord Injuries Australia and had booked return flights from Sydney to Ballina for a work meeting in May last year. Prior to his flight, Mr Jones called Jetstar to request assistance to transfer from his customised electric wheelchair to a Jetstar aisle chair and was told by the staff member on the call that a Jetstar representative would be available to assist. Despite this assurance, when he arrived to check-in, he was told by Jetstar they were unable to assist him, leaving him with no way to board his flight. This is contrary to Jetstar’s policy, which says its staff will undertake wheelchair transfers using a slide board supplied by Jetstar.

People with disability have been highlighting a wide range of systemic accessibility issues for air travellers. In May this year, former Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes, experienced humiliating treatment at Adelaide Airport, which prompted many others to share their stories about the inaccessibility of air travel.

‘I decided to take this to the Australian Human Rights Commission because people with disability are being let down by airlines. Air travel should be accessible to everyone and when airlines have a policy, they need to honour it’, said Tony Jones.

‘The treatment I received effectively means only people who are physically able to move themselves between wheelchairs or obtain assistance from an accompanying passenger can be confident they will be able to get on a Jetstar flight. That’s a major barrier for many people. Airline staff should be trained and available to assist, consistent with Jetstar policy.’

‘I look forward to Jetstar addressing my concerns and taking action to improve accessibility for people with disability.’

Media contact:
PIAC Director of Policy and Advocacy, Alastair Lawrie: 0478 739 280

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Towards Truth is a partnership between PIAC and UNSW Indigenous Law Centre.
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