SAM Cawthorn is a loyal Virgin Australia passenger and a frequent flyer who usually receives excellent service.
So he was shocked when he was forced to stand on an overnight flight from Perth to Brisbane last Friday due to his disability.
Mr Cawthorn, a motivational speaker, author and the 2009 Young Australian of the Year for Tasmania, is approximately 190 centimetres tall and has a fused leg and a prosthetic arm. He simply cannot fit in just any seat on a plane.
So when he boarded the flight and realised his assigned seat wasn’t suitable, he asked the cabin supervisor to be moved.
He was relocated to a row of three empty seats but his leg, which doesn’t bend at all, extended into the aisle and was repeatedly hit by other passengers and the food trolley.
So he asked for another solution. But despite seeing numerous suitable options, both in economy and business class, Mr Cawthorn claims the cabin supervisor refused to accommodate him, due to “airline policy”. He even offered to pay for an upgrade, but was denied.
So Mr Cawthorn had no choice but to stand for three hours near the lavatory, which made his leg and back very sore.
Mr Cawthorn, a platinum guest with the airline, said he was stunned by the treatment he received.
“Having spoken in 12 countries regarding resilience, I’m shocked as to why one of Australia’s best airlines would possibly put any of their passengers in a position where there was no choice but to stand for the duration of time between take off and landing,” he said. “There were many other suitable seats to which the cabin supervisor did not permit a seat change.”
He usually upgrades to business class but was too late on this occasion.
Sam Cawthorn gives a motivational talk to high school students. Source: News Limited
He says it’s time for airlines to review their policies for disabled passengers.
“It’s a case of policy getting in the way of common sense.
“I am saddened that all airlines have not altered their procedures when seating people living with a disability, particularly after the Jetstar wheelchair incident with Kurt Fearnley.”
“I’m not bitter, I just want to ensure this never happens again.”
A Paralympian, Fearnley was forced to crawl through an airport terminal in 2009 after Jetstar staff refused to allow him to use his own wheelchair.
Mr Cawthorn was injured in a major car accident after falling asleep. He now travels all over the world speaking about resilience, and how people can bounce forward from situations like he experienced.
Virgin Australia planes. Source: Supplied
The airline said it regrets being unable to assist Mr Cawthorn on Friday but it wasn’t given any notice about his disability.
“Virgin Australia sincerely apologises for any discomfort experienced by Mr Cawthorn on his recent flight,” an airline spokesman said.
“We take the comfort and safety of all guests very seriously and we ask guests that require special assistance to provide the information when booking to enable us to accommodate these requests.
“Unfortunately this information was not provided in advance and therefore while our crew endeavoured to assist Mr Cawthorn within safety policies and procedures, we were unable to meet his requests on this occasion.
“All guest feedback is important us and we are committed to providing a safe and enjoyable travel experience.”
Motivational speaker and author Sam Cawthorn is tall. Source: Supplied
Mia’s 2 cents- Virgin says they value customers well how about calling the police onto a plane because when thye pulled upto a staircase and the wheelchair user told them they couldn’t do stairs they radiod the airport using the code for someone taking over the plane when the police boarded from all doors armed they were embarassed apologized and arranged a cherrypicker to get me off the plane the staff harassed me for ten minutes until the police boarded threatening with arrest and jail.below is a sample of the horrors of disabled travel