Well last week there was quite the flap about Virgin Blue Airlines “clarification” of their policy for wheelchair-users.
It all started when an Australian Paralympics medalist tried to board a Virgin Blue Airlines flight down under, only to be told that he could not board unless he was accompanied by a “carer”. Subsequently Virgin Blue issued a statement clarifying their policy on unaccompanied wheelchair travelers. According to that statement, all passengers must be able to fit themselves with an oxygen mask and otherwise assist in the case of an emergency in order to travel unaccompanied. Those that can’t have to travel with a carer (at their expense).
Well, as you can imagine the proverbial excrement hit the rotary cooling device after that statement was released. Several days later the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) announced that Virgin Blue had backed down from their original position and amended their policy. As it stands now, Virgin Blue says that wheelchair-users will no longer have to travel with a carer at their own expense.
I’m glad this situation was rectified, but it also serves as a warning about air travel outside of the US. Don’t automatically assume that non-US airlines will abide by the ACAA. I’ve heard of many instances of denied boarding on non-US airlines. In most cases the results were financially disastrous as the passengers had to buy a last minute full fare ticket on a US carrier, in order to return home. Best bet is to play it safe and fly on a US carrier whenever you can.
Better safe than sorry.