Virgin Australia Staff Tipped A Disabled Doctor W/ A Spinal Injury Out Of His Wheelchair

virgin australia staff tip dictor dinesh palipana from wheelchair

Virgin Australia is conducting an investigation into a pretty horrific blunder after staff tipped prominent disabled doctor Dinesh Palipana out of his wheelchair at Brisbane Airport.

Dr Palipana — who is a former Queensland Australian of the Year — was boarding a flight to Melbourne with his mother and two carers to give a disability talk when a Virgin staff member took it upon themselves to take over his care.

“We travel in numbers and [with] experienced staff for safety,” Chithrani, Dr Palipana’s mother, said in a post to social media per Courier Mail.

“The wheelchair assistance staff member today disregarded all of us, asked us not to interfere [and] even for the three of us to board the plane first [before Dr Palipana] which we didn’t do luckily.

“What did she do then, she dropped my son from the chair taking a sharp corner. Who gave her the right to know how to assist someone with a spinal cord injury?”

Chithrani said she and Dr Palipana travel often, but had never come across staff that she felt didn’t listen to her or his care team.

“Please LISTEN and follow the lead of the care team as we are the experts in that area for that person,” she wrote.

“Do not cause bodily harm to someone in a wheelchair because you think you know it all.”

Dr Palipana said he’s waiting for results of scans to find out if he received any injuries as a result of the fall, but stressed that this doesn’t normally happen and he felt heard after his complaint.

“It was very distressing for my family and the people around me, and the outcome could have been dire if there was a fracture or head injury,” he told the Courier Mail.

“However, I do think it was an isolated incident where the ground staff member kind of took things into their own hands.

“Virgin historically has been excellent, and a lot of people with disabilities prefer to fly with them. They proactively called me to apologise and said they were investigating the matter.”

Virgin Australia said it “deeply regrets” the incident and apologised for what happened.

“Virgin Australia sincerely apologises for and deeply regrets the incident at Brisbane airport and has communicated this directly with our guest,” the airline said in a statement to PEDESTRIAN.TV.

“We immediately initiated an investigation into the incident and will continue to work to ensure this does not happen again.

“Virgin Australia takes its responsibilities to support guests travelling with specific needs, including mobility assistance, extremely seriously.”

Just last year, a Queensland woman slammed Jetstar after she claimed she was “humiliated” when she had no choice but to crawl down the aisle of a plane because she wasn’t provided a wheelchair.

And earlier this year, there’s been a reckoning for concert venues who still, in our Lord’s year of 2023, don’t provide decent seating options for people who use wheelchairs.

As cooked as this incident with Dr Palipana is, I’m glad to see that he at least feels heard and respected by Virgin who appear to be taking the issue seriously.

Now let’s hope it never happens again.

PEDESTRIAN.TV has reached out to Virgin Australia for comment.