Home » Travel » Disabled passenger removed from a Qantas flight and staff call police – over row about wheelchair

Disabled passenger removed from a Qantas flight and staff call police – over row about wheelchair

He had the police called on him when he got off the plane, all because of his wheelchair.

Qantas policy allows collapsed wheelchairs inside the cabin of only large Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 aircraft, which have dedicated stowage areas, and they are kept in the hold on smaller aircraft like 737s.

Shane, who owns disability equipment company Push Mobility, said he hadn’t had an issue bringing his wheelchair into the cabin before.

After he challenged the conflicting advice from Qantas staff, Shane and his companion were removed from the plane and taken to the terminal, where Australian Federal Police were waiting for them.

He said the officers quickly determined it wouldn’t be a police matter but the incident left the frequent flyer distressed.

Shane said: “I got in the car and cried. I was so upset. Sadly, this is not uncommon for people with disabilities.

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“I just really wonder when things like this will stop happening to us.”

Shane said he wasn’t happy with the idea of his wheelchair going into the hold.

He said: “When you get to Bali you have no idea what chair they’re going to give you. My wheelchair is designed to fit in the overhead and that’s why I take it travelling.

“I can’t afford to have my chair damaged. I run a company that replaces wheelchairs that have been damaged in flights. I understand what happens when people fly with their chair in the hold.

“I was going from Bali to Europe for work and if something happened to my chair, that would affect my travel for work.”

Qantas told news.com.au in a statement there had been a miscommunication.

It said: “Our crew are trained to ensure customers who require specific assistance travel comfortably, while maintaining the safety of other passengers and crew.

“We apologise that due to a miscommunication, one of our customers boarded our Boeing 737 aircraft intending to store their wheelchair in the overhead compartment when they are not able to be stored in the cabin.

“On smaller aircraft, wheelchairs are carried in the hold and returned back to their owner on arrival. It is never our intention to inconvenience our customers but safety for all customers is our number one priority.”

Some other major airlines similarly allow room for one wheelchair in the cabin of large aircraft, usually on a first-come, first-serve basis. Many carriers store wheelchairs and other mobility aids in the hold.

Shane said he found other airlines more accommodating than Qantas was.

He said: “I’m happy to check in my carry-on luggage so it means my wheelchair is the only thing I’m putting in the overhead.

“It doesn’t take up any more room than the luggage of any other paying customer. Usually I’m told, don’t worry, you can take your carry-on with you as well.

“It’s just the luck of the person you get. It’s like flipping the coin in terms of what my travel experience will be like, based on how compassionate the staff will be.

“The whole system is relying on how sympathetic the staff are.”

In August, Australian wheelchair tennis champion Dylan Alcott tweeted that he was stuck on an empty plane after the airline lost his wheelchair.

He wrote: “Australian airlines need to sort their sh*t out. It is inhumane and unfair taking people’s independence away and not caring about it.

A social media post about Mr Hryhorec’s experience this morning attracted stories from people with their own difficult experiences with various airlines while travelling with wheelchairs.

One woman wrote: “On a flight from Gold Coast to Melbourne, we watched my partner’s powered wheelchair get pushed on its side and jammed into the luggage department under the plane.

“When we received it on the other end the hand control was broken and it took well over half an hour before they found the batteries for it. “My partner was stuck in a silly little air plane wheelchair for roughly an hour while I attempted to fix things as the airline left me with all the broken pieces and batteries.

“People/luggage handlers do not understand the caution we take every day with ensuring these chairs are well looked after and working efficiently.”

Another woman wrote: “Sydney to Hamilton Island. My daughter’s electric chair, they pulled cords out of the remote. No reason. Luckily no damage otherwise would have been a nightmare.”

Others had similar stories of damage to their chairs or the chairs going missing and not being reunited with their owner for hours, days, or in one instance, a full week.

Shane said: “People are saying they don’t fly anymore, they just do road trips everywhere because it’s too difficult. That’s the reality for people with disabilities.”

He added that he had managed to book another flight to Bali, leaving today, but this morning Qantas confirmed his wheelchair would be put in the hold for the flight.

He said the ordeal so far left him unsure about whether to go ahead with the prepaid holiday.

Shane revealed: “I felt ashamed and embarrassed and I don’t really want to see them at the airport, the same people who treated me like crap the day before.

“I’m at a point where I could even cancel the holiday. I honestly don’t even want to go now.

“Things need to change because people with disabilities have been putting up with this for far, far too long.”

This article first appeared on News.com.au and was reproduced with permission.
Sun Online Travel previously revealed that a mum's "dream trip" to Turkey with her disabled daughter was ruined after the hotel turned out to be a building site.

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