The Australian Federal Court rejected a discrimination claim filed against Qantas owned low cost carrier Jetstar by 75-year-old wheelchair-bound Sheila King.
Sheila King took Jetstar to Federal Court on an allegation of discrimination against the disabled. Mrs King was left on the ground from a Jetstar flight from Adelaide to Brisbane in August 2008.
The Qantas owned low cost airline said the disabled passenger was not allowed on board because she was the third disabled traveller travelling with her own wheelchair showing up at check in for that flight. Jetstar's policy allows the transport of maximum two passengers with reduced mobility travelling with their own mobility device on any domestic flight. Such discriminatory carriage policy contravenes U.S. and E.U. regulations; therefore, it does not apply to International flights.
Federal Court Judge Alan Robertson has ruled in favour of Jetstar, stating the plaintiff omitted to tick the special assistance tab at the time of booking her flight on the airline's website. Judge Robertson also said the 75-year-old disabled passenger was offered a seat on another flight after being denied boarding on the flight she originally booked.
Judge Robertson ordered Mrs Sheila King to pay Jetstar's legal costs, capping them at AUD 20,000 (GBP 13,500/ USD 20,700).
"This practice is similar to that used by other low-cost carriers in Australia and is designed to balance care for passengers requiring assistance with the everyday operational needs of a low-fares airline," a Jetstar spokesperson said.
The outcome of this court case is likely to fuel a political debate on the issue of discrimination against passengers with reduced mobility traveling by air on Australian’s domestic flights. Qantas owned Jetstar domestic policy is illegal in the United States, Canada and all European countries.