A MUM has shared a heartbreaking photograph of her daughter after the 12-year-old was forced to get out of her electric wheelchair by Jetstar staff.
Heike Fabig said the experience left her daughter Billie “absolutely distraught”, as to the young girl, it was like “they literally just took my legs away”.
Heike shared this photo of her and her daughter after they swapped to another wheelchair[/caption]
Heike and Billie were travelling from Sydney to Launceston for a sports competition in March this year when the incident occurred.
In a post shared at the time of the incident, Heike explained that Billie wanted to share the photo so “people can see what it’s like, because they don’t understand”.
The mother and daughter regularly travel together but on this occasion they were told that they could not travel to the boarding gate in the wheelchair.
Instead, they were told that, despite having all the right paperwork and turning up at the airport two hours before departure, they had to swap to a manual wheelchair at the check-in desk because “there is no lift near the gate”.
In a formal complaint to the airline’s CEO last week, Heike explained: “When we arrived at check-in, we were told Billie was not allowed to drive her chair to the door of the aircraft as per Jetstar policy.
“When asked why this was so, it was explained to us that “there is no lift near the gate” and staff would have to push the chair from the aircraft back to the lift near the check-in counter, then travel down, and push the chair back to the aircraft to be loaded into the hold.”
This, according to Heike, contradicted the guidelines set out by the Australian government and their own procedures.
She pointed out that at Launston, Billie was allowed to use her own electric wheelchair.
But in Sydney, Billie was forced to use a narrow aisle chair, which she couldn’t safely use due to her condition according to Heike.
Instead, Billie had to be strapped in so that she doesn’t fall out of the chair and the whole experience left her “distraught and petrified”.
The mother of three added in her letter: “Insisting that people transfer to manual chairs that need to be driven by others rather than self-propelled infantises wheelchair users, and, where people with disability like Billie need to be strapped in, may amount to a civil offence (in tort) of trespass to the person or false imprisonment.”
Heike now wants Jetstar to explain why they were forced to change wheelchairs when there were lifts that could have been used and when the airline plans to change its policy.
A Jetstar spokesperson told Sun Online Travel: “We take the safety and comfort of passengers who require specific assistance very seriously.
“We are looking into Ms Fabig’s and her daughter’s experience to better understand what happened.
“We appreciate their boarding was frustrating and the travel could have been smoother and we are in contact with Ms Fabig about the experience.”
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Having a specialist wheelchair can be particularly important for passengers with certain disabilities.
One passenger recently broke his arm after a fall on a flight because he didn’t have the right chair and had to be carried to the toilet.
Earlier this year, Sun Online Travel reported how a disabled passenger was told by Jetstar that they couldn’t fly him home despite having flown him out.
The airline said it would investigate the contradictions in procedure.