A disabled passenger’s dream trip to watch her AFL team play finals football was ruined when she was allegedly left with a wrecked wheelchair and a massive damage bill – as the airline apologises and pledges to investigate.
High school teacher Maddy Zarb felt lucky when she snagged a last minute Virgin flight to Brisbane to see Carlton play the Lions in a preliminary final in late September.
But that was where the luck ended for the mum-of-one, who has a degenerative disorder. When she got to Brisbane she found her electric wheelchair, which she had only recently started to use to get around, was in several pieces.
‘It’s like they’ve broken one of my legs,’ Ms Zarb told the ABC. ‘It’s not the same as wrecking a suitcase or jeans or coats, it’s like they’ve actually damaged a part of my body.’
Maddy Zarb’s (pictured) dream trip to watch her AFL team play finals football was ruined when her flight allegedly left her with a wrecked wheelchair and a massive damage bill
When she got to Brisbane Ms Zarb found her electric wheelchair (pictured) in multiple pieces. Virgin has apologised and will pay for the repairs
While her brother was able to get the 70kg wheelchair back together, it couldn’t be driven and would need to be pushed across the city.
The delay meant they didn’t get to the game until half-time, and then her beloved Blues lost 11.13.79-9.9.63 to Brisbane.
The trip became more disastrous for Ms Zarb because she and her brother had to use taxis and mobility scooters to get around the Queensland capital for three days and then her wheelchair appeared to have been further damaged on the flight back to Melbourne.
A spokesperson for Virgin Australia said the company had apologised to Ms Zarb and will ‘continue to work closely with (her) to promptly assess and process outstanding claims.
‘Virgin Australia has paid for the hire of a temporary mobility scooter while repairs are being carried out to the guest’s scooter (and) will also cover the cost of these repairs,’ the spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia.
It is understood that further financial claims made by the Victorian teacher are being investigated by the airline.
Her partner, Cam Hendy, said the wheelchair is essential for her to ‘live a normal life’ and that she has now been without it for more than five weeks and they have spent $8,000 already on replacement rental equipment.
‘When she doesn’t have the chair, it compromises our ability to do things like cook, like play with our son, move around independently, and she ends up in a lot of pain,’ he said.
Mr Hendy said they couple is using a credit card to pay for added expenses such as wheelchair and accessible vehicle hire so Ms Zarb can continue to teach.
But they want Virgin to review the situation, which would be the last step before they could take a case to the airline ombudsman.
They decided to go public with their story as they do not want anyone else to have to through what they have experienced.
‘It’s very disheartening,’ Mr Hendy said.
While her brother was able to get the 70kg wheelchair back together, it couldn’t be driven and would need to be pushed across the city
A Virgin Australia (planes pictured) spokesperson said the company had apologised to Ms Zarb