Disabled child blocked twice from flying with airline
WHEN she ticked the box saying her little boy needed a special seat belt to fly to Melbourne, Michelle Boyce didn't think the airline could stuff things up twice in three months - but that's just what happened.
In November, the Kelso resident arrived at Townsville airport to board a flight with Qantas after booking a special upper body harness for her son Levi, 7, who lives with cerebral palsy and is non-verbal.
Qantas offered her an inadequate lap seat belt before bumping her and Levi off the flight.
History repeated on Wednesday night when she arrived at the counter of Qantas subsidiary Jetstar to board a direct flight to Melbourne to surprise her father for his 70th birthday, only to be told they didn't have the necessary harness she'd booked a month before.
She unsuccessfully begged staff and the pilot to allow them board and let her small 1m tall, 11kg son sit on her lap.
"They mentioned that we would have to not board the flight and they would make other arrangements for us to be on the 9.40pm flight (to Brisbane) which means we would have to sit around the airport for three hours or fly 24 hours later," Mrs Boyce said.
"The lady told me there's been some sort of overhaul with things at the airline and that's why there's no harnesses available anymore.
"I feel like they're discriminating because my child is a smaller size."
Other than the inconvenience of being unable to meet her husband who had driven to Melbourne to pick them up, a flight to stay overnight in Brisbane was a distressing prospect given the city's recent COVID cases and her son being immunocompromised.
"A few other customers what were boarding the same flight could hear the conversation that was going on and I was raising my voice in frustration as this was the second time it had happened," she said.
"I began crying because I was quite emotional about it all and then the other customers got very disappointed with Jetstar's handling of the matter."
She said a couple of customers approached Jetstar inquiring why Levi couldn't board the plane, saying "it wasn't good enough" and it was "discrimination against people with disabilities".
The disappointing saga continued for them after landing in Brisbane when the hungry travellers discovered that the kitchen of their airport hotel, which they were assured would be open, was closed by the time they arrived.
Another consequence of landing in Brisbane was escorting her son through the extra rigmarole of Victoria's COVID checks after entering from a former hotspot.
"It's not good enough that my plans and everything should be disrupted because the airlines can't provide a service for a disabled child," she said.
"I shouldn't have to be flown in a different time in the middle of the night and have to get up early just because they can't handle the situation.
"Levi is non-verbal, he can't talk and I've always got to be his voice and the one who stands up for him when we get treated differently like that. It shouldn't be like that."
A Jetstar spokesperson reached out to them directly to offer a sincere apology to Mrs Boyce and Levi for their experience.
"Prior to boarding in Townsville, our team were only able to source an adult upper torso harness which was not suitable for Levi," the spokesperson said.
"Our team urgently requested a child's harness to be sent from Brisbane, and re-booked the family on the next departing flight to Brisbane in order to get them to Melbourne as quickly as possible.
"We appreciate that this was a highly stressful situation and we have since ensured that Townsville has both adult and child restraints available."
Jetstar have covered the cost of overnight accommodation in Brisbane and has refunded their flight.
Originally published as Disabled child blocked twice from flying with airline