Airline in disrepute over claim by terminally ill traveller

Deirdre Brewer has sworn never again to fly with Virgin airlines after it failed four times to supply a wheelchair upon request
Deirdre Brewer has sworn never again to fly with Virgin airlines after it failed four times to supply a wheelchair upon request Rokabrewer

MANY would describe Deirdre Brewer as terminally upbeat before they suspected her of being terminally ill.

But the truth is Deirdre has no idea when she will draw her last, ragged breath.

The Yeppoon woman suffers from a rare, genetically-inherited respiratory illness, Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, which attacks her lungs and kidneys.

When Deirdre flies to Brisbane with her daughter or carer to see her specialist she has to have a wheelchair at the Brisbane terminal as she cannot walk the length from the gate to the entrance.

But she said there had been no wheelchair available for her the past four times she flew on Virgin airlines between January and April.

Deirdre said twice flight attendants had accused her of not booking a wheelchair, but the floor manager had told her there was a wheelchair booked and kindly apologised.

She said once she had to wait 40 minutes on a tarmac for an attendant to return with a wheelchair, which Deirdre said the flight attendant accused her of not ordering.

Deirdre explained she was speaking out because she had been told by a nurse that it had happened to other patients.

"I feel they shouldn't be able to get away with it any longer," she said.

Virgin Australia admitted they hadn't provided a wheelchair on one of the occasions Deirdre spoke of and said they had investigated that incident.

"In this particular instance, human error resulted in our ground crew being unaware of the guest's needs," a spokesman said.

"We have sincerely apologised to the guest for the inconvenience and have offered to refund the flight."

Virgin is conducting a review of their procedures for guests who require special assistance.

But Deirdre has sworn never to fly with them again.

"The refunds don't compensate for my life," she said.



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