14 March 2024


One of Australia’s largest providers of services for people with disability, Life Without Barriers says Australian Airlines are consistently failing people with disability and is calling for the National Aviation Industry to listen to the disability community and act as a matter of urgency.

Life Without Barriers, a national registered charity with around 13,000 employees and carers is calling on Australian Airlines and Government to implement better air travel standards that uphold the human rights of people with disability.

In a recent event, Ms Emma Bennison the organisation’s Chief Innovation Officer, who is blind, was abandoned in an airport for over an hour and a half while waiting for assistance from a staff member with Jetstar.

Emma Bennison, Chief Innovation Officer said this is one of many instances where Australian airlines have failed to meet support obligations for people with disability.

“To be left alone, with no way to contact staff for nearly 90mins shows the blatant disregard airlines have for me as a person with disability. It was stressful and humiliating” Mrs Bennison said.

“I ultimately had to contact a travel agent to be rescued. Had it not been for their intervention, I might still be there.

Ms Bennison said she expects airlines will meet their obligations to uphold her human rights and that when they don’t, it’s up to the person with a disability to hold airlines to account.

“I have had to spend time lodging a complaint which was ignored. Jetstar have failed to provide a meaningful response to my complaint and in their acknowledgement, the airline couldn’t even manage the basic respect to get my name right. Jetstar still has not responded to the very reasonable requests I have made for the complaint to be resolved.

“I have now lodged a complaint of disability discrimination with the Australian Human Rights Commission.

“This isn’t just a problem with Jetstar, poor treatment for people with disability when travelling by air is across the board. There is a serious lack of regulation in Australia’s Aviation Industry around accessibility so that people with disability can travel with dignity, safety and freedom.

Chief Operating Officer, Mark Leigh said as an organisation that works in every state across the country, we must be able to ensure safe and dignified travel for our employees. This is not just an issue for people with disability, it’s a workplace safety concern as well.

“Every employee has the right to safety when they travel, people with disability who may require support should not be treated as second-class citizens by any Australian airline,” Mr Leigh said.

“I am deeply concerned that a staff member was left without any assistance by a major national airline despite the booking being made to identify our staff required disability assistance. We expect a response and assurance the airline is immediately taking action to prevent this from happening again.

“We are extremely disappointed that Australia’s Aviation Industry has failed to provide timely and appropriate assistance to one of our senior leaders. There is no excuse for leaving someone waiting in an airport with no update, explanation or guidance.”

Life Without Barriers is calling on the airlines to listen to people with disability and act. Life Without Barriers is supporting Emma’s request for an apology from Jetstar and a refresh of the airline's “Special Assistance” Policy including the establishment of a dedicated telephone number for customers with disability and compensation for loss of productivity. The organisation would also like to see the Federal Government take action to see more regulation around accessibility across the nation’s airlines.

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