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Treatment of disabled ‘not good enough’, says Transport Minister

written by Jake Nelson | September 12, 2023

Victor Pody shot this picture of Melbourne’s air traffic control towers.

Transport Minister Catherine King has flagged a hard look at consumer protections in the upcoming Aviation White Paper, saying industry performance is “not good enough”.

The government is seeking submissions on consumer issues following last week’s release of the Aviation Green Paper, which noted rising complaints about the aviation sector as well as barriers to travel for passengers with disabilities.

“The Disability Royal Commission has heard the experiences of people living with disability engaging with aviation services,” the paper noted.

“These include being seen as an afterthought amid flight cancellations, being denied travel with assistance animals, a lack of accessible flight options in regional and remote areas, limited aircraft capacity to accommodate wheelchairs, extended and unreasonable check-in times, insufficient information from airlines on accessibility arrangements and a lack of communication and complaint mechanisms.”

Speaking at Question Time on Monday, Minister King said it is “not good enough” that service standards are “as low as they are”.


“It is not good enough that we have had people who are not able to get refunds for flights that they could not take because of cancellations during COVID. It is not good enough that people with disabilities cannot travel by air as freely as those without disabilities,” she said.

“That is why, in the green paper, I have very deliberately canvassed the issue of consumer protections. While we have the Australian Consumer Law, which provides baseline protections for all consumers when it comes to goods and services they purchase – and that includes goods and services they purchase in aviation – aviation complaints are up.

“I do say really clearly: airlines need to do better when it comes to Australian consumers. I have been highly critical of Qantas for some time in relation to a range of issues. They need to do better. All consumers in Australia deserve to have access to a decent aviation service, and that’s what we’re delivering through the aviation white paper.”

The Minister was responding to a question by independent MP for Kooyong Monique Ryan, who said Australia “lags behind” on consumer protections in aviation, and asked when airlines would be held to account for “ripping off Australians”.

“The US, Canada and the EU all compensate passengers for delays and cancellations. We’re a country of migrants. Issues with flights can be the difference between us seeing our family and not seeing them,” said Ryan.

The Green Paper, weighing in at more than 200 pages, covers areas including the transition to net zero, consumer protections, competition and aviation affordability. It is open for comment until 30 November.

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