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Airlines Practice Wheelchair Apartheid Disability Commissioner Said

  • Written by George Sensalis

Australia's former disability discrimination commissioner Graeme Innes denounced airlines practicing wheelchair apartheid.


In the past 30 years Graeme Innes has played a key role in countless human rights and disability initiatives, the drafting of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities being one of his greatest achievements.


In a speech to the National Press Club in his final week in the position of Australia’s first disability discrimination commissioner, Innes highlighted areas where progress has been made alongside those that still have room for improvement.


Innes said some Australian airlines still practise "wheelchair apartheid, with the two-wheelchair policy". Qantas owned Jetstar accepts bookings for up to two passengers requiring wheelchair assistance on each flight. 

Where there are already two bookings made for wheelchair assistance on the flight the passenger wishes to book, JetstarJetstar Boeing 787 Dreamliner will contact the passenger to make alternative arrangements such as booking an earlier or later flight, re-routing the passenger, or providing a full refund.


In 2012, Jetstar was awarded victory in a discrimination lawsuit brought by Mrs Sheila King against the budget airline. Wheelchair user Sheila King was not allowed on board the aircraft because she was the third disabled traveller travelling with her own wheelchair showing up at check in for that flight. Mrs Sheila King was ordered to pay Jetstar's legal costs, capped at AUD 20,000 (GBP 13,500/ USD 20,700).


Jetstar cap on the number of wheelchair passengers per flight is illegal in the United States, Canada, and Europe. 



Until getting in touch with Reduced Mobility Rights airports or airlines were not responding to me. I was made to feel isolated and worthless. Thanks to RMR I have been given a voice that in turn enabled me the confidence to travel again.

Darren Smith

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Reduced Mobility Rights Limited
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