Patients who have recently sustained life-changing spinal cord injuries can now be more prepared for airline travel when they leave hospital, with direct access to equipment that is used on aircraft.
Swissport, the world’s leading provider of airport ground services and air cargo handling, recently donated an aisle chair to the Princess Alexandra Hospital’s Spinal Injuries Unit.
The wheelchair is used when boarding aircraft to navigate the narrow aisle, so that people with mobility challenges can access their assigned seat.
The physiotherapy team is using the aisle chair as part of their rehabilitation program, with patients practising transfers, including in and out of their wheelchair and actual airline seats that have been previously donated.
These patients include Luke Rampal, who has been in the Unit since October last year after sustaining quadriplegia in a motorcycle accident in Vietnam, where he had been volunteering to help others.
Luke said it was important to be able to practise with equipment such as the aisle chair to improve his confidence.
“It’s good to get a better idea of what to expect when travelling,” Luke said.
“I’m a bit of a traveller myself so this will help to build confidence for the next time I fly.”
Spinal Life Australia Executive Manager – Member Services, Ross Duncan, said the donation was part of an ongoing collaboration with Swissport to share feedback on airline and airport services.
“Spinal Life’s Peer Support program operates within the Spinal Injuries Unit, with our team members providing one-on-one mentoring, advice and guidance to newly-injured patients and their families,” he said.
“We recognised the need for an aisle chair to be available to assist people to better prepare for travel before leaving hospital and approached Swissport who were only too happy to help.”
Swissport Senior Vice President Pacific Rob D’Alessio said the company was currently operating at 32 airports across Australia and New Zealand, partnering with all major domestic airlines and many international carriers.
This includes providing passenger services such as check-in and boarding staff, ramp services such as aircraft loading and unloading, baggage handling and more.
“Through our role representing airlines as ground services provider, we are committed to doing all we can to ensure a positive experience for air travellers,” Mr D’Alessio said.
“Spinal Life works actively to ensure their members approach air travel as confidently as possible and we’re proud that Swissport’s donation plays a small role in helping achieve this.”
Spinal Life members also recently met with Swissport’s Brisbane Airport leadership team to improve awareness around various injuries, as well as the needs of people with a physical disability.
This has also included providing feedback on the processes and procedures for passengers requiring mobility assistance, along with airport wheelchair design.
Swissport has also donated an aisle chair to Spinal Life Australia in Perth, which has been provided to the Fiona Stanley Hospital’s Spinal Injuries Unit to enable patients to begin to rebuild their confidence to fly.