“Stressful and humiliating”: Blind disability charity executive abandoned by Jetstar at airport

“Stressful and humiliating”: Blind disability charity executive abandoned by Jetstar at airport
Edited by Travel Weekly

    Life Without Barriers says Australian Airlines are consistently failing people with disability and is calling for the National Aviation Industry to listen to the disability community and act as a matter of urgency.

    Life Without Barriers, a national registered charity with around 13,000 employees and carers is calling on Australian Airlines and Government to implement better air travel standards that uphold the human rights of people with disability.

    In a recent event at Melbourne Airport, Emma Bennison, the organisation’s chief innovation officer, who is blind, was abandoned in an airport for over an hour and a half while waiting for assistance from a staff member with Jetstar.

    Bennison said this is one of many instances where Australian airlines have failed to meet support obligations for people with disability.

    “To be left alone, with no way to contact staff for nearly 90 minutes shows the blatant disregard airlines have for me as a person with disability. It was stressful and humiliating,” Bennison said.

    “I ultimately had to contact a travel agent to be rescued. Had it not been for their intervention, I might still be there.”

    Bennison said she expects airlines will meet their obligations to uphold her human rights and that when they don’t, it’s up to the person with a disability to hold airlines to account.

    “I have had to spend time lodging a complaint which was ignored,” she continued.

    Jetstar have failed to provide a meaningful response to my complaint and in their acknowledgement, the airline couldn’t even manage the basic respect to get my name right. Jetstar still has not responded to the very reasonable requests I have made for the complaint to be resolved.

    “I have now lodged a complaint of disability discrimination with the Australian Human Rights Commission.

    “This isn’t just a problem with Jetstar, poor treatment for people with disability when travelling by air is across the board.

    “There is a serious lack of regulation in Australia’s Aviation Industry around accessibility so that people with disability can travel with dignity, safety and freedom.

    Chief operating officer, Mark Leigh, said as an organisation that works in every state across the country, we must be able to ensure safe and dignified travel for our employees.

    “Every employee has the right to safety when they travel, people with disability who may require support should not be treated as second-class citizens by any Australian airline,” Leigh said.

    “I am deeply concerned that a staff member was left without any assistance by a major national airline despite the booking being made to identify our staff required disability assistance.

    “We expect a response and assurance the airline is immediately taking action to prevent this from happening again.

    “We are extremely disappointed that Australia’s Aviation Industry has failed to provide timely and appropriate assistance to one of our senior leaders. There is no excuse for leaving someone waiting in an airport with no update, explanation or guidance.”

    A Jetstar spokesperson told Travel Weekly that it has since been in contact with Bennison for more information about her experience in order to fully review her case and said that the airline takes her concerns very seriously.

    “We’re committed to delivering a comfortable and safe travel experience for every customer including those requiring specific assistance,” a Jetstar spokesperson said.

    “As part of our service, we provide assistance for customers from the aircraft to the baggage carousel.”

    Jetstar has a contact centre team to assist customers in scenarios such as this, though as a low-cost-airline it admits it does not have the systems, staff or supporting facilities to provide the same level of assistance offered by full-service airlines.

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