8 04 2008

Discrimination reaches another level – Rex to ban disabled from travelling by air

By Emily Wheeler

08 April 2008

Dubbo News – Daily Liberal

http://dubbo.yourguide.com.au/news/local/general/discrimination-reaches-another-level-rex-to-ban-disabled-from-travelling-by-air/1218604.html

A proposal by regional airline Rex to ban intellectually disabled people from flying unaccompanied, unless they can demonstrate an ability to understand safety procedures, has left Dubbo disability advocate Gordon Tindall asking who will be targeted next.

Fairfax reported yesterday that Rex lodged an application with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission for an exemption from anti-discrimination laws, which would allow it to force some disabled people to buy an extra ticket for a carer if they want to use the airline.

The application also showed that wheelchair users who need help using the toilet would also have to buy a second ticket for a carer.

Mr Tindall, who is the general manager for Westhaven Disability Services in Dubbo, said most parents or carers of a person with a profound intellectual or physical disability “would not contemplate allowing such a person to travel alone”.

“The statement does not define the degree of disability which Rex considers a passenger to be incapable of making safety or personal decisions or utilise the on-board toilet,” he said.

“There are long-time residents of Westhaven with an intellectual disability but who have travelled independently by plane to New Zealand and Tasmania, as well as other places while many others travel home for holidays by train and bus without problems.

“Would these people be considered at risk to Rex and require a carer?”

In its submission, the airline argued that its fleet of 33 Saab aircraft, which fly from Sydney to various regional destinations, carry only one flight attendant limiting the means to care for high-needs clients.

“Will the aged or sick be the next to be targeted?” Mr Tindall said.

“I thought we were living in a more tolerant and enlightened age where businesses accepted the need to provide some additional support to the aged and people with disabilities.”

Meanwhile, Rex and Air Link have been awarded 15 NSW intrastate Air Transport Licenses, giving them the sole right to operate on those routes, which include Bourke, Broken Hill, Parkes and Cobar to Sydney.

The licenses started on March 30 and expire in March 2013.

Rex Network Strategy and Sales general manager Warrick Lodge said there was not a single Rex route that was contested in the last round of licensing.

“This is a sure sign that regional aviation for small regional cities is in real jeopardy in today’s environment and that few operators besides Rex can make a success of air services even under the protection of a license,” he said.

Rex did not return the Daily Liberal’s calls yesterday.

emily.wheeler@ruralpress.com

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