Qantas in hot water for treatment of disabled passenger

The passenger says that it's not just about mobility - it's about dignity.

A wheelchair-bound woman, Samantha Connor, has expressed her outrage via social media about the treatment of a fellow wheelchair-bound passenger on the same flight, slamming the pilot for blaming the plane’s delay on the passenger.

Connor, from Western Australia, posted in an angry Facebook update that the pilot made an announcement to the plane stating, “We have just had a customer come on board in an eagle lift, a special piece of equipment, it takes some time to get him on board, it is what it is. That is why we are delayed.”

“They just ablesplained their delay by using a disabled passenger as an excuse,” Connor added. “And I know him.”

The passenger who used the eagle lift was Jakob Ratnayeke, an Australian athlete who plays soccer, hockey and rugby for the Western Wasps.

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The term ‘ablespained’ refers to a condescending way an able-bodied person may explain issues regarding to disabled people, much like the term ‘mansplained’ used by some people to describe the condescending way men may explain things to women.

Connor says she’s used to the treatment by the airline, saying it’s not the first time Qantas have ‘compromised her dignity’.

She explains how before boarding the flight with the pilot’s announcement about Ratnayeke there was an announcement in the terminal that said, “We have been held up as we are just helping some passengers with special needs. We won’t be long.”

She says a Qantas staff member then approached her and asked, “Are you alright now?” referring to an incident that happened the previous Monday. 

“… You seemed upset on Monday when your chair wasn’t there and you had to wait,” the Qantas staff member said. “We could have pushed you down, it wouldn’t have been a problem.” 

“It was a problem for me,” Connor replied, trying to explain the issue to the Qantas staff member by using a metaphor. She told the staff member to imagine if everyone had their shoes confiscated at the gate of a plane but then they were asked to walk barefoot through the terminal until the airline found their shoes.

“That’s why it’s a problem, you’ve just compromised someone’s dignity,” she said.

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A Qantas spokesperson told The Daily Mail they have contacted the passenger and apologised.

“We don’t think it was the pilot’s intention to cause any offence but can understand if it did so. We spoke to the passenger when she landed in Perth and we have followed up with her again today to get her feedback,” the spokesperson said. 

“Every year we fly tens of thousands of customers who require specific assistance comfortably and safely.”

Travel at 60 contacted Qantas for further comment.  

This article first published on Travel at 60.

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