A seasoned international traveller who has visited more than 30 countries around the world claims Qatar Airways recently booted him off a flight because he wasn’t travelling with a carer who could help him get to and from the lavatory during a 14-hour flight from Melbourne to Doha.
Craig Nolan was hoping to fly back to Finland, where he currently lives but was allegedly kicked off the first of two flights to Helsinki after he had already been helped to his seat by airport and airline staff.
Nolan was born with spina bifida, a birth defect that occurs when a baby’s spine and spinal cord don’t develop properly. As a result, Nolan relies on a wheelchair to get around, although his disability hasn’t prevented him from travelling the world independently.
After visiting family and friends in his native Australia, Nolan was due to fly home with Qatar Airways, but he claims he is now stranded in Melbourne after the airline refused to transport him without a carer.
Nolan’s friend Bridget Mullahy explained how the airport experience passed off unremarkably, and staff transferred him to a special aisle chair and got him to his assigned seat aboard the aircraft without any questions asked.
Once onboard, a member of the cabin crew asked Nolan what assistance he might require during the flight, and he explained that he would need to be transferred to and from the lavatory using the aisle chair that is kept onboard.
This is generally a fairly mundane request that Nolan says many other airlines have been happy to fulfil, but within minutes of communicating his needs, another Qatar Airways staffer allegedly ordered him off the plane because “he was travelling alone”.
“He had been seated, he had his transfer boarding pass and was clearly communicating his simple needs fulfilled by MANY airlines before (without questions or issue),” Bridget wrote on Twitter.
“But Qatar Airways decided to discriminate against him, remove him from the plane and strand him in Melbourne!”
In its own Disability Access Facilitation Plan, which was developed for flights to and from Australia, the airline says a carer must accompany a passenger when they are unable to feed themselves, they require someone to give them medication, or they are unable to “self-toilet”.
In this case, however, Nolan only needed assistance to get to the door of the lavatory, from where he could go to the toilet without any further help. Qatar Airways says this is an accommodation that cabin crew should perform, and a carer is not required.
Nolan also says he provided information about his needs prior to check-in and the first he became aware there was an issue was only after he had taken a seat onboard the aircraft. Qatar Airways flight QR905 was delayed by more than an hour on Monday night.
A representative of Qatar Airways has been contacted for comment.
In September, a British wheelchair-bound passenger says cabin crew refused to assist her in getting to an onboard lavatory during a flight and she resorted to dragging herself along the aisle in order to use the toilet.
The airline, Albastar, denied allegations its crew suggested accessibility rights activist Jennie Berry wear a nappy rather than try to use the onboard lavatory.
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.