A pained mother of a disabled teenager has shared an appalling encounter her daughter had with staff of Jetstar Airline, which left the girl “absolutely distraught”.
It was alleged that Jetstar staff had forced the said teenager to use a manual wheelchair, instead of her own electrical wheelchair because the staff claimed there was no lift at the boarding gate of the plane.
The mother identified as Heike Fabig said the experience left her daughter Billie “absolutely distraught”, as to the young girl, it was like “they literally just took my legs away”.
Heikes disclosed that despite having all the right paperwork and turning up at the airport two hours before departure, they had to swap to a manual wheelchair at the check-in desk because “there is no lift near the gate”.
Heike and Billie were travelling from Sydney to Launceston for a sports competition in March this year when the incident occurred.
In a formal complaint to the airline’s CEO last week, Heike explained: “When we arrived at check-in, we were told Billie was not allowed to drive her chair to the door of the aircraft as per Jetstar policy.
“When asked why this was so, it was explained to us that “there is no lift near the gate” and staff would have to push the chair from the aircraft back to the lift near the check-in counter, then travel down, and push the chair back to the aircraft to be loaded into the hold.”
This, according to Heike, contradicted the guidelines set out by the Australian government and their own procedures. She pointed out that at Launston, Billie could use her own electric wheelchair.
Still Speaking, Heike disclosed how Billie was forced to use a narrow aisle chair, which she couldn’t safely use due to her condition.
According to Heike, Instead Billie had to be strapped in so that she doesn’t fall out of the chair and the whole experience left her “distraught and petrified”
The mother of three added in her letter: “Insisting that people transfer to manual chairs that need to be driven by others rather than self-propelled infantises wheelchair users, and, where people with disability like Billie need to be strapped in, may amount to a civil offence (in tort) of trespass to the person or false imprisonment.”
Heike demanded an explanation from Jetstar as to why they were forced to change wheelchairs when there were lifts that could have been used and when the airline plans to change its policy.
Reacting to this, A Jetstar spokesperson said, “We take the safety and comfort of passengers who require specific assistance very seriously, we are looking into Ms Fabig’s and her daughter’s experience to better understand what happened.
“We appreciate their boarding was frustrating and the travel could have been smoother, and we are in contact with Ms Fabig about the experience.”
Recall that earlier this year, Jetstar had told a disabled passenger that they couldn’t fly him home despite having flown him out.
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