Jetstar and Disabled Travellers
Sometimes disabled travellers get treated with less than courtesy by airlines. Many of you will remember the problems that people have had with Ryanair and their old policy of restricting the number of wheelchair passengers per flight. Then there was the high profile case of the former paralympic champion, Tanni Grey-Thompson leaving the Gulf with 35 other athletes last year who were delayed due to Emirates not being prepared for such a number. Now comes a story, courtesy of “The Dominion Post” in New Zealand, of the treatment handed out to two TV presenters.
Tanya Black and Dan Buckingham are the two disabled presenters of the show Attitude, itself a programme about disability. They were flying from Auckland to Wellington on Jetstar, a short one hour journey, along with a colleague who was not disabled. Jetstar, a no-frills airline in the Ryanair mould, was set up by Qantas much the same way that British Airways set up Go in the 1990’s. Its critics complain about the rigid rules on baggage weight and extra charges; its fans say the cheap prices save them so much money. Both presenters had flown with Jetstar before so probably the story isn’t an airline one but a human one. How people treat the disabled when flying. Someone at Auckland decided the two needed a carer each and wouldn’t let them board. A stand-off ensued and eventually the duo bought tickets on another flight. Obviously the story made the papers as the two are such high profile disability campaigners. The government minister responsible waded in calling the treatment by Jetstar unacceptable.
So far it could be considered that Jetstar’s duty staff hadn’t shown initiative but the airline compounded the problem by then pointing out that it is their policy that if a passenger needed help boarding they must bring aboard a carer. And that, according to the duo, Jetstar said they would let them fly if they didn’t tell the media. Fat chance. But was this a one- off? No, in November 2009 the airline had refused to allow another disabled passenger to fly. Needless to say letters came thick and fast and within a few hours, The Dominion Post had 33 comments on its website ranging from the annoyed to those just having a go at the airline generally.
You would have thought by now that airlines everywhere would have been aware of the embarrassment that insensitive policies can cause. And the fact that the media would grab at any story like this. Some just never seem to learn that all passengers should be treated as passengers not as potential problems.