Disabled passenger forced to stand on flight

SIOBHAN DOWNES
Last updated 11:42 06/05/2014
Sam Cawthorn
facebook.com/samcawthornofficial
FORCED TO STAND: Sam Cawthorn, a loyal Virgin Australia customer, was forced to stand for the duration of his flight from Perth to Brisbane.

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A disabled Australian man was forced to stand for three hours next to a toilet on an overnight flight because he could not fit into his assigned seat.

Sam Cawthorn, a former Young Australian of the Year for Tasmania, is approximately 190 centimetres tall with a fused leg and prosthetic arm, making it difficult for him to sit on an ordinary plane seat.

When he boarded his Virgin flight from Perth to Brisbane last Friday, he discovered his assigned seat was unsuitable, and requested to be moved, news.com.au reported.

He was relocated to a row of three empty seats, but his prosthetic leg, which cannot bend, extended into the aisle and was constantly bumped by passengers and the food trolley.

Cawthorn said he saw numerous other suitable options, but when he asked to be shifted again, the cabin supervisor refused to do so due to "airline policy", even when Cawthorn offered to pay for an upgrade.

He said he had no choice but to stand for three hours near the lavatory. 

"Having spoken in 12 countries regarding resilience, I'm shocked as to why one of Australia's best airlines would possibly put any of their passengers in a position where there was no choice but to stand for the duration of time between take off and landing," he told the news site.

"There were many other suitable seats to which the cabin supervisor did not permit a seat change." 

To add insult to injury, Cawthorn is a frequent flyer with the airline, who travels all over the world speaking about his recovery from a major car accident.

He said he normally received excellent service.

"I'm not bitter, I just want to ensure this never happens again." 

The airline apologised for the discomfort experienced by Cawthorn, but said it had received no notice about his disability.

"We take the comfort and safety of all guests very seriously and we ask guests that require special assistance to provide the information when booking to enable us to accommodate these requests," a spokesman said.

"Unfortunately this information was not provided in advance and therefore while our crew endeavoured to assist Mr Cawthorn within safety policies and procedures, we were unable to meet his requests on this occasion."

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