A disabled Australian woman said she had the “most humiliating experience” when she was forced to crawl off a plane because the crew refused to let her use a wheelchair for free.
Natalie Curtis, of Queensland, was flying the low-cost Australian airline Jetstar from Townsville to Bangkok with a stop in Singapore when the incident occurred last week, 7NEWS reported.
She told the channel’s breakfast show, “Sunrise,” that she was offered a standard aisle wheelchair to board in Singapore, but was told when she arrived in Thailand that she’d have to pay to use another chair to get off.
Curtis refused, saying she had never been asked to pay before and was left with no option other than to crawl down the aisle to get off the plane.
She acknowledged that a language barrier between her and employees may have led to the incident.
“When we arrived (staff) were asking us to actually pay and I didn’t really comprehend it, and I’m like, ‘No, I’m not paying to be able to get off this plane,’” she told “Sunrise.”
“They all just sat around for a while and the option that was left was for me to get on the floor and crawl,” Curtis added.
Travel companion Natasha Elford, who recorded her friend crawling down the aisle, said she wanted to carry the woman herself but could not due to a knee injury.
“I just felt really sorry for Natalie … I just felt really hopeless and I’m like, ‘I just can’t believe this is really happening,’” Elford told the news outlet.
Airline workers were apparently informed that an aisle wheelchair was unavailable for at least 40 minutes after the plane arrived in Bangkok, according to 7NEWS.
Curtis brought her own wheelchair on the flight but it was too large to fit in the cabin, according to the report.
“(Staff) did obviously try to offer to lift her up and carry her, but if they dropped her (Curtis) that would (have been) 10 times worse,” Elford said.
A Jetstar rep denied that the airline had requested payment for the use of a chair.
“We unreservedly apologize to Ms. Curtis for her recent experience while traveling with us,” the spokesperson told 7NEWS.
“We are committed to providing a safe and comfortable travel experience for all our customers, including those requiring specific assistance,” the rep said.
“Regrettably, this was not the case for Ms. Curtis following a miscommunication that resulted in the delay of an aisle chair being made available at the gate on arrival and we are looking into what happened as a matter of urgency,” the spokesperson added.
Jetstar said it offered Curtis a refund and other compensation, but she vowed to never fly with the company again — writing on Facebook that it was “definitely the most humiliating experience I have had traveling.”
She told 7NEWS: “I definitely don’t want anyone else to go through what I had to go through.”