An Australian woman with a disability says an incident in Bangkok, Thailand, last week on a Jetstar Airways flight from Singapore made her feel humiliated. A social media video with nearly 500,000 views captures the woman, Natalie Curtis, crawling off the plane because she was without a wheelchair.
Details surrounding the incident
Curtis’ wheelchair was too large to fit on the aircraft, so she had to use a smaller wheelchair known as an aisle chair. She insisted the airline allowed her to use the aisle chair to board the plane in Singapore without an extra charge, but when the flight landed in Bangkok, she said a flight attendant asked her to pay a fee.
“I’ve never had to pay to use a chair in any of my travels,” Curtis said to 7News Australia.
Photo: Getty Images
When she recounted the incident, Curtis shared that she had trouble understanding what the airline crew had requested of her.
“There was a language barrier and when we arrived, there was a lady with a notepad saying that we had to pay something for a chair … I didn’t really comprehend it, and I’m like ‘no I’m not paying to be able to get off this plane’.” -Natalie Curtis, Jetstar passenger.
According to Sunrise, 7News Australia’s morning program, the airline told Curtis that it would take 40 minutes to get a chair and that it would not be free. She refused to pay and said she was left with one other option.
“They all just stood around for a while and then the option that was left for me…to get on the floor and crawl.”
A Jetstar spokesperson denied Curtis’ claims and said the carrier did not refuse to offer a chair without payment. In a statement to 7News, the airline said,
“A miscommunication resulted in the delay of an aisle chair being made available at the gate on arrival. At no point was an aisle chair withheld due to a request for payment.”
Curtis was traveling to Bangkok on a birthday trip, according to 7News. She traveled with her friend Natasha Elford, who filmed her pushing herself past eight rows down the aisle. Elford said that the airline attempted to come up with an alternative solution.
“They did obviously try to offer to lift her up and like carry her, but if they drop her, like that would be 10 times worse,” Elford said.
Curtis shared on social media how the incident made her feel.
“I refused to pay as I have never had to do that in the past,” Curtis said. “So I had to crawl to my wheelchair. I have never felt so degraded in my life.”
Photo: Jetstar Airways
Curtis also wanted to make her intentions behind sharing her story clear.
“Definitely the most humiliating experience I have had traveling,” Curtis said. “Some of the comments from the original story were pretty harsh. Most definitely did not do this for attention.”
Jetstar has since apologized for the incident and offered a full refund and additional compensation, but Curtis said Sunrise offered first class arrangements on her returning flight to Australia on Qantas.
Jetstar is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Qantas.
Source: 7News; Sunrise