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Virgin Blue Clarifies Its Special Assistance Policy

01/06/2006

Virgin Blue said today it welcomed the input of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission following widespread confusion regarding the airline’s updated Special Assistance Policy.
“Over the past two days, there has been a high level of misinterpretation and this is of great concern to an airline which takes its commitment to special needs passengers very seriously,” said Heather Jeffery, General Manager Public Affairs.


She added, “Virgin Blue carries over 85,000 Guests with special assistance needs every year and we work closely with disability organisations to ensure our policies are non-discriminatory.”


“We are very concerned at the inference that Virgin Blue has changed its policy to force all wheelchair users to travel with a carer. This is certainly not the case”.


“Virgin Blue acknowledges the wording and communication of its enhanced policy may have been confusing and the airline is pleased to have the opportunity to work with HREOC to clarify the position. Where there are still outstanding areas of concern, Virgin Blue will continue to work with HREOC and any other organisations to clarify and resolve these issues.”


“It has never been our intent to discriminate or confuse people and we are sorry that this has occurred, our intention has always been to offer enhanced services to all Guests”.


Changes Virgin Blue has made today to the wording on its website include:


Virgin Blue has made it clear that not all wheelchair users require a carer to travel on Virgin Blue. Consistent with industry standards and regulatory requirements, Virgin Blue has always had the requirement to have a carer travel with passengers in certain circumstances.


Virgin Blue has made it clear that it will continue to assist wheelchair users through the terminal, on to the aircraft and into their aircraft seat. Virgin Blue has recently purchased more than 60 self propelled and electric wheelchairs to allow for independent travel through the terminal for wheelchair users. For those who require assistance, Virgin Blue staff will continue to assist these Guests to the aircraft. Virgin Blue staff will operate the electric wheelchairs.

Virgin Blue will continue to consult with special interest groups to address any ongoing concerns.


For full details on Virgin Blue’s Special Assistance Policy and Independent Travel Criteria, please refer to the Virgin Blue website www.virginblue.com.au.