A freelance journalist and author who uses a wheelchair says the Australian flag carrier damaged her mobility aid leaving it unusable on a recent domestic flight and then refused to cover the cost of getting it fixed because Qantas claimed airlines don’t normally accept liability for ‘minor’ damage.
Zoe Simmons, a mental health and chronic pain advocate, says she discovered the damage to her wheelchair after her most recent flight with Qantas to Canberra. The left brake on the chair was no longer working meaning that Zoe could no longer navigate slopes or steer safely.
“In an event that surprises no one, my wheelchair was damaged on my latest Qantas flight,” Zoe said in an Instagram post that explains what happened.
“My left brake no longer works. This means I cannot go down hills or slopes by myself, because I won’t be able to stop or steer safely,” the post continued.
“I was hoping I would be the exception to the norm. But hundreds of wheelchairs are damaged worldwide every single day by airlines.”
A Qantas representative at the airport gave Zoe a form to fill out to make a claim, but a few days later, she received an email from the airline saying it wouldn’t be offering her any help.
“Airlines do not accept liability for minor damage to the breaks, wheels, and handles of your wheelchair,” the email read. “Therefore, I am unable to offer you any financial settlement in this matter”.
“I realise this may not be the outcome you were hoping for, however, if you are cover by personal insurance you may be able to claim on that policy,” the email continued.
The PR-own goal is just the latest crisis to engulf the beleaguered penny-pinching airline which has faced harsh criticism in recent months for cancelled and delayed flights, missing baggage and dirty planes.
Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has faced down widespread calls for him to resign over the myriad fiascos, but the airline’s embattled CEO has refused to step down and has defended Qantas’ steep cost-cutting.
Last month, Air Canada was slammed by lawmakers for initially refusing to cover the full cost of repairing a bespoke wheelchair that was badly damaged during a flight from Toronto to Tel Aviv, Israel.
Maayan Ziv was initially offered just $300 in compensation by Air Canada before the airline eventually agreed to cover the full cost of replacing the wheelchair.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.