A disabled woman has shared her harrowing experience aboard a flight on Jetstar Airways. Natalie Curtis was on a flight from Singapore to Bangkok when she was reportedly forced to crawl down the aisle as there was no wheelchair available at the time.
Curtis, who is from Queensland, Australia, has been wheelchair-bound since high school and was asked to pay for wheelchair assistance in order to disembark from the plane.
In a Facebook post shared Thursday, Curtis wrote that she was offered a standard “aisle” wheelchair – designed for use on flights – while boarding. However, as the plane reached the destination, the crew informed her that there was an additional cost attached to using the chair to get off the plane, Yahoo News reported.
She refused to pay the add-on costs of the aisle chair because “I have never had to do that in the past,” the woman shared in a Facebook group called “Why We Hate Jetstar.”
Curtis’s friend, Natasha Elford, who accompanied her on the flight, captured a video of this incident. “I have never felt so degraded in my life. I was able to get a video of it.. have called Jetstar to complain and was told someone would call me back in 7 days. Absolutely disgusted in the service provided,” she wrote.
Elford couldn’t help Curtis reach her wheelchair because she herself was nursing a knee injury, the latter clarified in an interview with Sunrise on Monday. Elford who was also present for the interview said she was “gutted” by her friend’s struggle and felt “hopeless” that she could do nothing to help.
Jetstar crew “offered to lift her up and carry her but obviously if they drop her that would be 10 times worse,” Elford said, adding that crawling was “the safest way, unfortunately.”
The airline has responded to Curtis’ claims, saying payment was not the reason why they couldn’t provide timely wheelchair assistance. Jetstar claims that their crew was advised that a wheelchair wasn’t going to be available for at least 40 minutes after landing.
Curtis didn’t want to wait and chose to crawl down the aisle to reach her wheelchair, the carrier claimed, adding that they are in touch with the passenger and have offered reparations for her ordeal.
“We are committed to providing a safe and comfortable travel experience for all our customers, including those requiring specific assistance,” the company said in a statement to Yahoo.
“Regrettably, this was not the case for Ms Curtis following a miscommunication that resulted in the delay of an aisle chair being made available at the gate on arrival, and we are looking into what happened as a matter of urgency.
“At no point was an aisle chair withheld due to a request for payment.”
However, it is to be noted that passengers have gone through similar experiences while traveling with Jetstar. A wheelchair-bound man filed a discrimination complaint against the carrier after he was turned away at the boarding gate because they didn’t have anyone to transfer him from the wheelchair into an aisle chair, as per The Guardian.
Another passenger said he was made to feel like a “second class citizen” after he was carried to the aisle chair on the flight because Jetstar refused to provide a ramp between the air bridge and the plane.
Coming back to the latest incident, social media users criticized Jetstar after Curtis’s video surfaced online. “OMG are we living in the dark ages? The use of a wheelchair should be included in the fare as part of Jetstar’s service. Especially for people living with a disability!” a tweet read.
“I reckon running a business is about providing a service to customers at a fair price. It is not about gouging the last available cent from the vulnerable. Did #jetstar think that if fellow passengers saw a wheelchair used without payment, all would want one? Appalling,” tweeted another.
“Appalling, and it’s not like it’s the first time Jetstar have treated people needing a wheelchair badly. Not good enough #jetstar, it’s way past time to be doing much better,” a third opined.