Qantas refused to pay for repairs to a woman’s wheelchair that was damaged on a domestic flight before reversing its decision when she complained on social media.
Zoe Simmons claimed she initially didn’t even receive an apology from the airline after the wheelchair’s left brake was bent to the side, leaving it “unusable”.
Qantas eventually relented and said it “sincerely apologised” for the “frustrating” experience and would pay for all the required work.
Simmons wrote later in a column for news.com.au that she lives with a disorder called fibromyalgia, which causes “extreme pain, fatigue, brain fog, as well as pins and needles that regularly make my limbs go numb”.
The wheelchair was damaged on a flight from Sydney to Canberra, with many of the screws loose. It meant that she was unable to steer or go down slopes or hills by herself.
Simmons later said, “When I initially reached out to Qantas for help, they told me they wouldn’t repair my wheelchair or reimburse me for damages.
“‘Thank you for taking the time to contact us about your wheelchair,’ their customer care team wrote in an email, after I lodged my damaged property report.
“‘Airlines do not accept liability for minor damage to the brakes, wheels and handles of your wheelchair. Therefore, I am unable to offer you any financial settlement in this matter.’”
After creating a video on Twitter about her experiences, Qantas then reversed its decision.
“We appreciate this has been a very frustrating experience for Ms Simmons and we sincerely apologise,” said the business. “We have contacted her directly and have offered to pay for the required repairs to her wheelchair.”
Qantas later said her complaint had gone to the wrong team, and it would review the incident to ensure it didn’t happen again.
— Zoe Simmons | she/her (@ItbeginswithZ) October 5, 2022
The wheelchair row is the latest in a series of embarrassing problems the airline has faced this year. In 2022, it has seen incidents including huge delays at Easter, hours-long call wait times, and even a revelation that the cabin crew of a Qantas A330 were made to sleep across seats in economy.
Last year, the Federal Court ruled the Flying Kangaroo was wrong to outsource 2,000 ground handling roles and subsequently rejected an initial appeal.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce even recorded a ‘formal apology’ to long-standing customers for its post-pandemic struggles.
The video message came alongside a range of perks for frequent flyers, including a $50 voucher towards a return flight and a status extension for silver frequent flyers or above.
“Over the past few months, too many of you have had flights delayed, flights cancelled, and bags misplaced,” Joyce said via video and an email.
“On behalf of the national carrier, I want to apologise and assure you that we’re working hard to get back to our best.”