Bendigo man says airlines need to make equipment available on more flights

NO GO: Dennis Kosmatos reached the boarding gate for a Jetstar flight before he was turned away. Picture: DARREN HOWE
NO GO: Dennis Kosmatos reached the boarding gate for a Jetstar flight before he was turned away. Picture: DARREN HOWE

A Kangaroo Flat man says more airline routes need to be accessible for those with disabilities.

It comes after he and two carers were told he would be unable to board a Jetstar flight to Phuket, Thailand, with the airline saying it lacked equipment to lift him into his seat.

It was a moment Mr Kosmatos said left him and his carers lost for words.

Mr Kosmatos said many airlines’ flights were not completely accessible for those with disabilities, which made it more difficult to travel.

He said his travel agent had called the airline company to double check paperwork was in order a week prior to take-off.

On the day Mr Kosmatos and his party were to fly out they had made it to the boarding gate before being told they would be unable to get on the plane.

He said Jetstar was yet to provide an official explanation.

Mr Kosmatos received a refund but is now trying to sort out insurance and other costs for the trip he did not take. Picture: DARREN HOWE

Mr Kosmatos received a refund but is now trying to sort out insurance and other costs for the trip he did not take. Picture: DARREN HOWE

The Thailand trip would have been Mr Kosmatos' third.

“It’s what I’ve got to look forward to every year. It’s brought me out of my skin because in the last three or four years, before I started these Thailand trips, I was sort of down and out, sitting at home,” he said.

Mr Kosmatos could not see why people who had disabilities could not enjoy the same types of holidays as others.

“I feel a lot for the younger people. There are all sorts of injuries that can put you in wheelchairs when you are 18 to 20-year-old,” he said.

There was equipment that airlines could use to assist aviation passengers with disabilities into their seats, Mr Kosmatos said, including eagle lifters, but not all flights were completely accessible.

While tickets for his and two carers’ flights had been refunded, Mr Kosmatos was now dealing insurance for 19 days at his resort. He was also seeking refunds on a Thai carer and wheelchair van hire.

A Jetstar spokesperson said they were sorry to hear about Mr Kosmatos’ experience but that their records only showed he had requested wheelchair assistance, not any additional requirements.

“Whilst we do provide limited wheelchair assistance to the gate, we do not have the equipment that was required in this case to physically lift a customer into their seat,” the spokesperson said.

“At the airport, after better understanding Mr Kosmatos’ situation, our teams did everything possible to help him with his travels to Phuket, including checking for available seats with full-service carriers that provide the specific assistance on board a plane that he required.”