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Passenger claims Qatar Airways crew removed him from flight due to disability

The Australian man has spina bifida and was travelling alone

Helen Wilson-Beevers
Wednesday 07 December 2022 10:55 GMT
“I asked to speak with the captain and was denied that opportunity,” he claims.
“I asked to speak with the captain and was denied that opportunity,” he claims. (Getty Images)

An Australian man has accused Qatar Airways of removing him from a flight to Doha on Wednesday because of his disability.

Passenger Craig Nolan was travelling home to Helsinki, Finland from Melbourne, via Doha, when the incident occurred.

Mr Nolan was born with spina bifida – which means the spine and spinal cord doesn’t develop properly in the womb – so he requires a wheelchair for mobility.

When taking a flight, he is typically transferred to an aisle chair, which allows transportation from a passenger’s own wheelchair to their plane seat. 

However, when returning home from a trip to Australia, Nolan was travelling alone and told airport staff his wheelchair needed to be tagged for use at the next stage of his journey. He says he was then transferred to an aisle chair for boarding, lifted onto the plane and into his seat.

After this, Nolan’s friend Bridget Mullahy says, he thanked the stewardess and “explained that all he would need now was for someone to push the aisle chair to the toilet door mid-flight and back to his seat.”

Mr Nolan told 7 News breakfast show Sunrise, in response to the stewardess asking what help he would need during the flight, he answered: “[if he needed to use the bathroom] just bring the aisle chair” adding that “I’m independent otherwise in the bathroom, but again just take me back to my seat afterwards, as is their job as a stewardess”.

He continues: “She said OK and walked away and five to 10 minutes later another stewardess walked towards me and said I need to leave the flight.”

After questioning the stewardess, Nolan says he was told the captain had made this decision because of him travelling alone as a disabled person.

“I asked to speak with the captain and was denied that opportunity” Nolan continues, adding “they didn’t want any further discussion.”

At this point, Ms Mullahy added in a Twitter thread, Nolan was then “pushed towards Reservations Customer Service, who told him they would charge $400 for a ‘no show’ fee.”

In a video shared by SBS News, Mr Nolan claims Qatar Airways told him: “You’re travelling on your own, you need somebody to travel with you.” But Nolan says he’s travelled the world for over 20 years and had never experienced this issue before.

Ms Mullahy says that her friend was clearly communicating “his simple needs, fulfilled by many airlines before”. She criticised Qatar Airways for their decision to “strand him in Melbourne”.

“The whole travel industry needs more education from disabled people,” Nolan told 7 News presenters.

The Independent has contacted Qatar Airways for comment.

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