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Jetstar investigates claims from disabled ath -

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Jetstar investigates claims from disabled athlete

Brigid Glanville reported this story on Tuesday, November 24, 2009 12:41:00

ELEANOR HALL: Executives at the airline Jetstar say they're investigating a complaint from
Paralympian Kurt Fearnley.

Mr Fearnley says he was forced to crawl through Brisbane airport because Jetstar would not allow
him to take his wheelchair on board the flight.

Jetstar offered him one of their chairs but he says he couldn't move it properly.

The Federal Discrimination Commissioner says he is shocked that this sort of thing still happens in
2009.

Brigid Glanville has more.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: Australian wheelchair athlete Kurt Fearnley has become a household name after
crawling the Kokoda Track.

But he says when he returned to Australia he was forced to crawl through Brisbane airport when
Jetstar demanded he check his wheelchair in as luggage.

Mr Fearnley says he was offered an airline owned chair but it was unsuitable.

He says it was humiliating.

KURT FEARNLEY: I had been looking forward to the relief of getting home for two weeks. Every night
I said I've been sore. Every night I was just looking forward to getting back to my place and
relaxing and then, I'm an hour away from home and this happens and for the last three days, that
has been not relaxing.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: Kurt Fearnley says long standing cultural prejudices still exist for people with
a disability.

KURT FEARNLEY: If this happened in America, the airline wouldn't be functioning tomorrow. If this
happened in Australia to someone of a different race, if this happened to someone of a different
sexuality, someone who is against the norm, someone who is obese, the airline wouldn't be
functioning tomorrow.

I feel like tomorrow I will be locking myself in a room and going to sleep. Right now I just feel
like there is a burden, a sense of relief that hopefully in a couple of days, things will be a
little bit different.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: The Government has announced a review of how the system can be changed to improve
the quality of life for people with a disability.

Jetstar says it hasn't received a formal complaint from Mr Fearnley or was aware of the problem
when it happened four days ago.

The airline is now trying to clarify why Kurt Fearnley was prevented from using his own wheelchair
after checking in at Brisbane Airport.

Normally disabled passengers are allowed to take their own wheelchairs to the gate before being
transferred to the airline's wheelchair for boarding.

Simon Westaway is the head of corporate relations with Jetstar.

SIMON WESTAWAY: The processing of the chair was done at the check-in rather than at the gate. We
are just getting to the bottom as to why that occurred. In an ideal world we would consistently do
it at the gate but at busy airports, sometimes it is not always possible to do it exactly how we
would want to always do it.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: The Federal Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes, says it's
tragic that Kurt Fearnley was refused permission by Jetstar to use his own wheelchair.

GRAEME INNES: I would have to say that it is tragic to think that an Australian such as Kurt
Fearnley who, in recognition of the war service of many other Australians, came back from crawling
the Kokoda Track - many Australians have walked the Kokoda Track, Kurt crawled the track - an
amazing effort and he has raised $23,000 for men's health during Movember, had to experience
disrespect and poor treatment when he arrived in an Australian airport.

He was given the choice of sitting in a wheelchair which he couldn't use or control for an hour and
a half or crawling to a plane by himself and in this day and age, in modern Australia, this just
should not occur.

ELEANOR HALL: That is the Federal Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes ending Brigid
Glanville's report.