Woman outraged after missing flight over size of wheelchair
A CHARTERS Towers woman with spinal injuries wants larger aircraft to operate from Townsville after she was unable to fly because her electric wheelchair would not fit in the plane.
Tania Hornberg was due to fly to Brisbane with Qantas on Tuesday morning for a two-day work conference but never left the tarmac as the armrest on her electric chair would not fit in the aircraft hold, she said.
She was forced to cancel accommodation and airport parking, all of which were refunded, along with her flight.
No other planes were available to take her.
Ms Hornberg was left frustrated and was surprised larger planes weren't available as Townsville was a "big city".
"I was pretty shocked. Townsville being a tourist destination, (with a) pretty big population, but they don't have accessible transport," she said.
"They should bring bigger planes here.
"(And if they can't) I hope they look at it in the future because people with disabilities can't fly otherwise, unless we've got somebody who can dismantle our chairs.
"It puts a barrier to work, holidays."
Qantas and Virgin Australia aircraft services between Townsville and Brisbane have a maximum height of 84cm, while Ms Hornberg's electric wheelchair armrest measures 86cm.
Townsville's Jetstar service has the capability to carry mobility aids up to one metre, according to its website.
Mobility aids must remain upright to prevent damage.
Ms Hornberg has been wheelchair bound after a spinal injury in 1991 as a teenager.
She conceded that her wheelchair was slightly taller to suit her height and that she was unsure how to disassemble it.
"The amount of people with disability that travel these days I would have thought ... surely I'm not the only tall person that travels in an electric wheelchair," Ms Hornberg said.
It was the first time she has attempted to fly out of Townsville since moving to Charters Towers in 2015.
Previously it has not been an issue because she lived in Roma and was able to travel to Brisbane.
A Qantas spokesman said there was an error with its booking system which failed to alert staff that Ms Hornberg required wheelchair assistance or the dimensions of her wheelchair.
"As her wheelchair was too large for the aircraft operating this flight, we should have contacted her a lot earlier to allow her to make alternative travel arrangements," the spokesman said.
"We have contacted Ms Hornberg to apologise and will be reviewing how this can be avoided in future."