Brain surgeon sues Austrian Airlines over folding-tray finger injury

Brain surgeon sues Austrian Airlines over folding-tray finger injury
Austrian Airlines headquarters at Vienna International Airport. Photo: General Photo Shooter/Wikimedia
An Australian brain surgeon whose little finger got stuck in an Austrian Airline plane's fold-out tray table is suing over his resulting physical and psychological injuries.

Dr David Walker says he was flying with Austrian Airlines from Brisbane to Manchester in the UK, via Bangkok and Vienna in July 2016, when his finger was injured by a collapsing tray table.

The neurosurgeon says the cabin crew folded out the table tray from his armrest before serving an in-flight meal during the Bangkok to Vienna leg of his trip. But the cabin crew did not return to retract his table tray after the meal, which stopped Dr Walker from reclining his business class seat. When he attempted to retract the tray himself, he said it “malfunctioned” and “snapped back suddenly without warning”.

“The fifth finger on the right hand of the Applicant became jammed in between two of the parts of the horizontal tray-table resulting in severe pain and injury,” the statement of claim says.

With the help of his son, he was able to pull his finger out from the fold-out tray after several seconds.

“Due to the severe pain and realisation of the injury to the finger, the Applicant lost consciousness briefly,” the statement of claim continues.  

Dr Walker claims he suffered a fracture to the finger, as well as soft tissue injuries and trauma to the nail bed. He says he has been left with a permanent disability and has suffered anxiety and depression.  

The claim says Dr Walker has lost and will continue to lose income as a result of his physical and mental injuries, and that he will face future medical expenses.

A spokesman for Austrian Airlines, Wilhelm Baldia, said on Thursday that the case is currently being examined by the airline's legal department and that he is not able to comment in more detail on the case at present. He did say, however, that an internal investigation had shown that Dr Walker had not approached the crew after the incident.

He added that it is not a requirement that the tray-tables in business class be retracted by a member of the crew. “There is no specific procedure,” he said. “Passengers often want to use the table later on, for example for their laptop. The crew is of course happy to help with any problems with folding or unfolding the table.”