For most, travelling is a joyful experience. But for Carolina Ascui, who is partially blind and uses a wheelchair, getting on a plane can be "absolute hell".
The northern Tasmanian woman requires an aeroplane seat with an armrest that can come up, and to be close to a wheelchair-friendly toilet. These needs are rarely met, she said.
"They don't give you the seat that you've actually asked for ... 99 per cent of the time [you] have to change with someone else," she said.
"I've had one incident where a gentleman refused for half an hour to swap seats with me because his seat had an armrest that went up. And we couldn't get onto the plane for half an hour because of this incident.
"I've had people ask me to stand up. They just expect me to stand up when it's like, hello, I'm in a wheelchair. 99 per cent of [people in] wheelchairs can't stand up," she said.
"You just can't expect someone to stand up. When you see a wheelchair, you shouldn't expect that."
Ms Ascui, of Launceston, said she and her family had to book flights three to four months in advance, and even then did not necessarily secure an appropriate seat.
"It's just been absolute hell for me," she said.
"It's more hell than anything for my parents. Going overseas was an absolute nightmare.
"They're trying to go on holiday."
It is not just onboard the plane that instances like these occur.
Last week, former disability discrimination commissioner Graeme Innes said he was discriminated against at Adelaide Airport.
Mr Innes said his normal procedure was to sit his guide dog while he was scanned with a body scanner, before calling her through. She would alarm the system and need to be patted down, a process Mr Innes had no problem with.
But in this instance, Mr Innes said the security guard refused and turned his back on him.
"It's a pretty insulting and offensive thing to do to a person who can't see that you've turned your back and walked away," he said.
Mr Innes proceeded to another lane to be x-rayed. He walked through first without alarming the system. His dog then followed, her harness triggering the scanner.
He said the security guard told him he needed to be patted down, even though the dog alarmed the scanner.
Mr Innes' friend called over the supervisor, to whom the guard "reluctantly" confirmed that Mr Innes had not set it off. The supervisor agreed that only the dog needed to be patted down.
"I'm not suggesting I shouldn't have to go through the scanner. Of course I should, there's a good security reason for that, but I expect to be treated the same way as everyone else," Mr Innes said.
He said events like these happened regularly, as often as every two to three months.
"I was actually assaulted at Darwin airport a few years ago ... what I mean by that was that a guard put his hand on my chest and physically pushed me backwards," he said.
"When I get to airports now, you know, I'm triggered by that previous experience and that was just added to by this incident.
"I felt sick in the stomach, my heart rate increased ... I was perspiring, I felt hot. And you know, so all in all pretty humiliating, pretty inappropriate treatment.
"This is endemic across the disability field, there's no question about that.
"Airlines and airports have thumbed their noses at disability discrimination law for the last 20 years."
People with Disability Australia (PWDA) president Samantha Connor agreed experiences like these were common for people with disability.
"People with disability face barriers at all stages of air travel, from choosing flights and making online bookings, difficulties navigating our way around the airport, checking in, getting on and off the aircraft, flying and in-flight services, through to the way we are treated by airline and airport staff and other passengers," she said.
Ms Connor said those in rural and regional communities were most affected by flight inaccessibility.
"Lack of accessibility and disability awareness often means air travel for people with disability is more complex to navigate, more stressful - often to the point of distressing - usually involves more time in making travel arrangements and in having access needs met and can often lead to significantly more cost for the person with disability travelling," she said.
IN OTHER NEWS:
PWDA is calling for access to air travel to be embedded within the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport.
It is also advocating for increased scrutiny and accountability of airlines and airports and improved disability training of airport and airline staff.
Ms Connor said there needed to be consistency for screening procedures at all airports, improvements to access and inclusion, removal of discriminatory caps on wheelchair limits, and reform of the Disability Discrimination Act to ensure better protections for the rights of people with disability.
In 2007, Flight Closed, a report on the experiences of people with disabilities in domestic airline travel, was submitted to the Review of the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport.
But Ms Connor said little had changed.
"Some airlines have increased disability awareness training, but this still is not enough to ensure our needs and requirements are effectively met," she said.
Australian Airports Association chief executive James Goodwin said Australia's airports met all regulatory and legislative requirements, and took its role of keeping passengers safe and connected seriously.
"The Australian Airports Association is a member of the Aviation Access Forum which contributes to disability access policy as well as operational and administrative issues associated with access to air services for people with disability," he said.
"Australia's airports have also established supplementary methods to assist passengers with disability such as airport ambassadors to provide extra support, the implementation of the Hidden Disabilities Program and the use of therapy dogs within the terminal."
A QANTAS spokesperson said the airline welcomed thousands of passengers who required special assistance on board its aircraft every year.
"We have a dedicated team who work with these passengers and we are always looking at ways we can make sure everyone has a smooth and comfortable journey with us," they said.
All customer-facing QANTAS staff undergo training to support people with additional needs, including disabilities. This includes disability awareness training.
Its policies are reviewed regularly, with advice from specialist disability organisations including Guide Dogs of Australia and the Deafness Forum of Australia.
Virgin Australia frontline staff also undertake training, with its Guest Assistance Team trained to facilitate and coordinate the movement of guests requiring specific assistance throughout the airport.
The airline recently launched a group-wide diversity and inclusion strategy. It is currently convening an Ability working group to review its policies and procedures, and is working with disability advocacy organisations to ensure inclusivity.
Both the minister for transport Barnaby Joyce, and the shadow minister Catherine King were contacted, but neither responded.
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