An woman and her two young sons recently were kept off a Virgin Australia flight after the younger child had lost his shoes and was going to board in stockinged feet, according to an article by the Website Terminal U. After the carrier apparently cited a non-existent policy of Australia's safety regulator, Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), Karen Darley and her four-year and two-year old children were refused boarding on the flight and finally took another one when replacement shoes for the toddler were found.
Further complicating the matter is the fact that the family missed an alternate flight (for which she was not billed additionally by Virgin Australia), and therefore had to pay more than $800 for new tickets. Darley is seeking compensation for the second flight and a portion of the cost of the first flight.
Terminal U shared a quote from a CASA spokesperson: "CASA recommends that all passengers wear shoes on board. There is no regulation for wearing shoes, but airlines can set their own policies." Our emphasis was added. According to a news.com.au article, which Terminal U sourced, the airline does have a policy requiring shoes of "anyone who can walk."
As is often the case with discrimination against primalfoot people, there seems to be confusion as to why Virgin Australia actually kicked Darley and her sons off the plane. Both articles linked above claim that a safety regulation was wrongly cited. The airline does have a policy addressing this issue, but it's not clear if that was brought up by the airline only after the fact.
UPDATE, Nov. 2, 2011: Barefooter Bob Neinast informed us that Virgin Australia's posted Conditions of Carriage actually do not have a requirement that passengers use footwear. That said, the document does state that the airline "may take all steps it believes necessary to ensure the safety and security of its Guests," an excuse often used against barefooters when no specific policy exists.
Whatever the case, there is no regulation requiring that any Australian airline require shoes of their passengers. Furthermore, we believe that it's unnecessary for any airline to prohibit primalfoot passengers for reasons of safety. Under all normal circumstances, commercial airplane cabins are free of anything that can harm the feet. If emergency situations are a concern, hard hats and protective gloves are not required of or issued to passengers.
We hope that as the numerous benefits of primalfoot living come more into the public view, airlines and regulators will eliminate any policies requiring shoes of passengers.
Thanks to our advisory board member Moe Morales for passing this along!