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Woman denied flight due to wheelchair weight

Australia woman barred from from boarding flight due to excess wheelchair weight

By Web Desk
March 27, 2024
Australia woman with disability barred from boarding flight as her wheelchair exceeded weight limit. — APP file
Australia woman with disability barred from boarding flight as her wheelchair exceeded weight limit. — APP file

A woman with a disability faced a frustrating setback while preparing for a flight. She was told that she could not be allowed to travel as her wheelchair exceeded the weight limit approved by the airliner.

Emma Weatherley, who has Facioscaplohumeral Dystrophy (FSHD), a muscle-wasting condition, relies on a motorised wheelchair for mobility. However, when she attempted to board a flight on February 29, she was told her wheelchair exceeded the weight limit.

The 43-year-old mother of two was diagnosed with the disease at 28. She has been wheelchair-bound for the past decade.

Despite having a specially designed, aircraft-approved wheelchair, weighing 190kg, Virgin staff informed her it couldn't be transported as it surpassed the plane's 120kg limit.

This incident left Emma feeling discriminated against and concerned about her ability to travel independently. She expressed her dismay at the lack of awareness among airline staff regarding procedures for wheelchair users, making flying an even more challenging experience.

"How do people who don't travel a lot cope with that?" Weatherley raised a question.

"It's really challenging," she said. "A lot of people with disabilities just can't afford to travel by air."

Weatherley called for financial penalties for transport services that fail to provide adequate accessibility support. She said the cost of discrimination complaints is often factored into their business models.

"The balance of power is really skewed because providers and operators have legal teams at their disposal," she said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Weatherley had a tough time at her previous workplace. Once, she slipped on some water in the bathroom because her wheelchair couldn't fit inside, and there was no one to help her around. She ended up spending hours on the floor before anyone found her.

The fall was serious as she dislocated her hip and shoulder. She required surgery to fix.