The Disability Travel Challenge: Qantas Sydney-Cairns flight disappoints

The Disability Travel Challenge: Qantas Sydney-Cairns flight disappoints

Wheelchair-bound holidaymaker John Roberts is putting facilities for disabled travellers to the test on a month-long trip – and you can follow his progress exclusively in Travel Weekly.

John and his wife took a Qantas flight from Sydney to Cairns on January 7.

Things started so well at London Heathrow, but now we are left wondering how and why things have started to go wrong – and why nobody seems to want to assume management of an issue or resolve it.

We arrived at Sydney two hours before the flight and checked in. Again, we checked that our seats were correct and that assistance for us had been organised.

We were given access to the lounge and waited for our assistance to arrive, but nothing happened.

The boarding call came, so we made our own way to the gate, only to be told that they were not aware of us or our requirements. This caused real difficulties. We were told that we would have to board last, which was an issue because it meant keeping people waiting.

Embarrassingly, we were told this in front of other passengers who were not aware that we had organised everything months beforehand, confirmed it by email and followed it up at check in. Now they were looking to blame us!

We were then told that our boarding last would delay baggage loading, and potentially delay the flight further. We did all we should or could have to avoid this, so why should we end up feeling so bad about it?

Leaving the aircraft at Cairns was not an issue, but again we had no help. I asked about the walk to the terminal, and was told, “Just keep going straight – only the first bit is uphill.” In reality it was a struggle. Nobody seemed interested, and we were just left to get on with it.

Why does this happen? We have requested special assistance, so why does it keep failing to materialise?

We finally got some help from our driver, who met us at the airport and gave us a hand with our luggage.

My subsequent complaints to Qantas seemed to generate no interest. The airline emailed a response saying, “Our airport staff review all flights for the number of passengers who require assistance for both arrivals and departures.

“Subject to availability, staff will be released to assist where possible once a [disabled] passenger has made themselves known to our staff (usually at check-in). Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that assistance will be available on the day.”

Eventually I had a response from Qantas Group general manager customer product and service Lesley Grant, who said:

“We are extremely disappointed to hear about your experience, which is completely inconsistent with our mobility aid policy. Qantas is committed to assisting customers with special needs.

“We work closely with external national disability advocacy groups who provide us feedback and input to ensure we offer the best possible customer experience.”

So the question remains, if this is not Qantas policy, why is it happening? I am still waiting for a response to these issues.

John Roberts’s name has been changed to protect his identity during the trip

Catch up with all the reports from John’s trip at


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