It should be noted that access regulations vary around the world. For example, under the Air Carrier Access Act, US airlines are required to let folks stay in their own wheelchairs all the way to the aircraft door. But that’s not the way it works in Australia. And Kurt Fearnley found that out the hard way.
It all started at the check-in counter at the Brisbane airport, when a Jetstar employee informed Kurt that he would have to check his chair there and transfer to an airport wheelchair. And it went downhill from there. As a wheelchair marathon champion, Kurt values his independence, and he felt that the airport wheelchair would take that away from him..
In the end, Kurt refused the wheelchair and crawled to the gate, with a stop at the restroom along the way. And then, refusing the aisle chair, he crawled on the airplane.
I know a lot of people probably think that crawling through an airport is just downright gross. I’m kind of with you on that one, but I do understand Kurt’s feelings on the matter. He felt that crawling through the airport was more dignified than being pushed by someone. As he puts it, “I had a choice, and that was to make my own way to the gate.”
After Jetstar apologized to Kurt, a company representative admitted that their wheelchair assistance policy isn’t consistently applied. And as a result of this incident, The Human Rights Commission was asked to have a look at Jetstar’s policies and procedures for disabled passengers.
It should also be noted, that this isn’t Jetstars first access faux paux; but at least last time they remedied the situation.
So the bottom line is — at least for now — stay away from Jetstar if, like Kurt, you have problems with being pushed through an airport.