Thursday, April 26, 2012

Jetstar out of pocket even if it wins wheelchair appeal

Jetstar out of pocket even if it wins wheelchair appeal

JETSTAR may well be pondering how many extra wheelchairs it could have provided for disabled passengers, as it weighs the dollar cost of what constitutes ''public interest'' in a disability discrimination stoush in the Federal Court.
Jetstar and Virgin Australia have been accused of discrimination by Sheila King, 78, who is reliant on a wheelchair as a result of post-polio syndrome, and a car crash in 2008. At stake is the business model of the low-cost airlines, which restrict wheelchair-assisted passengers to two per flight.
It was Jetstar's tight margins as a low-cost operator that convinced Federal Court judge Justice Alan Robertson that although Mrs King had been discriminated against, Jetstar was allowed to do so because of ''unjustifiable hardship'' provisions. Mrs King has appealed.

It was the question of litigating in the ''public interest'' that swayed the court this week to agree to a protective costs order that will see Jetstar out of pocket, even if Mrs King loses.
Justice Nye Perram agreed to Mrs King's request to cap costs at $10,000, saying the public interest proposition being put was that ''low-cost operators ought not be achieving their margins at the expense of disabled persons''. Mrs King is being represented pro bono and with some legal aid funding.
The judge was sympathetic to Jetstar's position - and that at the initial trial costs were capped at $20,000. Jetstar has estimated its appeal costs lie between $100,000-$180,000. No date has been set for the appeal or the Virgin Australia trial.

Read more:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Frontier Airlines Fined For Violating Rules Protecting Air Travelers With Disabilities

Washington, DC--(ENEWSPF)--April 13, 2012.  The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today assessed a civil penalty of $50,000 against Frontier Airlines for violating rules protecting air travelers with disabilities.

“The Department of Transportation is committed to ensuring that airline passengers are treated fairly, and passengers with disabilities are no exception,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.  “At DOT, we take our aviation disability rules seriously and will continue to take enforcement action when airlines violate these rules.”

An investigation by DOT’s Aviation Enforcement Office into complaints filed against Frontier found that the carrier violated the DOT regulation implementing the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) with respect to its transportation of an individual with a disability.

The individual filing the complaint, a quadriplegic who has no use of his arms, legs, or torso, is unable to sit upright in an aircraft seat without support and restraint.  Frontier failed to provide him appropriate notice, in advance of the return portion of his round-trip transportation, that Federal Aviation Administration requirements prohibit seatbelt extenders as restraint devices for his upper body, even though the carrier had permitted him to use the devices in three prior flights, including the outbound flight of the trip in question.  On the return flight, the individual did not have an alternative restraint method and was removed from the flight.  The Department’s disability regulation requires airlines to provide passengers who notify them that they use a wheelchair for boarding, as this individual did, of any limit on the carriers’ ability to accommodate passengers with a disability, even if the passengers do not request the information.

Frontier also violated the Department’s disability regulation by failing to provide the passenger with adequate assistance in pre-boarding and getting on and off the plane, despite receiving multiple advance notices that the individual had a disability and needed assistance prior to his flight.  DOT requires airlines to provide assistance to passengers with disabilities while boarding and deplaning aircraft, including the use of wheelchairs, ramps, mechanical lifts and service personnel where needed.

The consent order is available on the Internet at, docket DOT-OST-2012-0002.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Jindal MD speaks out against Jet Airways insensitivity: Jan 2008

Dear Colleagues,

I remember it was Christmas vacations of 2007, Ms. Sminu Jindal was travelling to Bangkok for a family vacation with her husband, two minor children and  a maid. She has been a frequent flier due to her professional commitments and probably never faced any problem earlier.

Ms. Jindal visited Thailand with her family on Jet Airways flight 9W064 on December 25 from Delhi to Bangkok in Business Class and also returned by the same airliner on January 01 2008.

At the time of boarding at Delhi Airport , the airline staff handed her over an indemnity bond with a dictate that unless she sign the same she would not be allowed to board the flight.  The indemnity Bond said that she would not hold the Jet Airways responsible for any harm to her during the flight. The apathy, ignorance and lack of sensitivity and training on the part of airliner shocked her. She had been travelling all over the world as per the demands of her profession but for the first time an airline asked her to sign such a ridiculous bond before being allowed to fly.

She tore the bond they were waving at her and told them that she was of a firm mind and that she was a wheelchair user because of a road accident at the age of 11 that left her paraplegic. She also told them unless they make every heart patient and pregnant woman to sign a similar thing; she refused to be treated differently. The altercation spoiled her festive mood & vacation and caused her immense psychological discomfort. That was not all despite prior request which she always make for an aisle chair to be provided she was denied the same on the grounds that there was no provision for the same.

Her ordeal didn't end there. When she traveled by return sector flight on January 1, 2008 the airline again did not provide any aisle chair (a small wheelchair that can be used inside the aircraft) saying that they don’t have any provision for it nor they allowed her ultra modern collapsible wheelchair that could be easily folded and carried as handbag and fits well in to the cabin without causing disturbance to any co-passenger.

She stressed that such mobility devices are like a part of any disabled person’s body and give them freedom to move about with dignity. The ground staff was not even trained on how to talk to a passenger with disability. The staff often spoke to the attendant pushing the wheelchair about me rather than speaking to her. Not only the staff but also the Manager seemed to highly insensitive. She was surprised that if that was the state of affairs at Jet Airways who claimed to be disabled friendly then what would be the situation in other domestic airliners operating in the country.

On her return she took up the issue strongly with the DGCA through a complaint since the issue was not about her being treated like that, but how airlines still refuse to provide basic assistance and dignity to physically-challenged passengers despite rules, regulations, requirements and legal mandate in place that ensures dignified & equitable access to all. DGCA issued a notice to the JetAirways on 10 Jan 2008. JetAirways tendered a public apology and it was thought that that the issues will settle down and the airline will mends its ways.

Svayam thereafter actively participated in several rounds of making a Civil Aviation Requirement on the Carriage by Air of Persons with Disabilities in 2008-2009. Most suggestions put forward by Svayam were incorporated in the present CAR on Carriage of Persons with Disabilities. However, the ground realities have not changed since then and we continue to see that several airlines continue to flout the DGCA's CAR with impunity.

Here are some of the media coverage on the issue in January 2008:

Disability Rights DLU

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Supreme Court Issues Notices on Jeeja's Petition against SpiceJet

Dear Colleagues,

Please refer to my earlier post on an incident wherein disability rights activist Jeeja Ghosh who was forcibly deplaned from a Goa-bound SpiceJet flight from Kolkatta in February because the pilot felt she was unfit to fly. On Jeeja's petition, honorable Supreme Court of India has issued notices to the Union Government, Airliner and the DGCA.

A bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana P Desai issued notices to the Union government, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and SpiceJet on her petition accusing the private airline of subjecting her to traumatic treatment on February 19 and depriving the organizers of her expertise during the international seminar.

"Jeeja Ghosh has experienced similar experience before. In 2008, she was forced to undergo a medical examination before being allowed to board an Indigo flight from New Delhi to Kolkata," the petitioner said and sought an investigation into the incident.

"These acts of discrimination which have left disabled people very upset have continued unabated despite the enactment by the Central Government of clear and binding directives prohibiting discrimination against disabled persons in air transport," said Jeeja.

She requested the apex court to direct "SpiceJet to adequately compensate the petitioner for loss of money, wasted time and the humiliation and trauma suffered during the unsavoury incident".

This case coupled with the uproar in the disability sector has pushed the Government of India/ DGCA too hard to take a swift action against the Airliner and if required amend the Regulations to include penalty clauses, if need be.

The result has been several meetings with the stakeholders and now constitution of another committee to suggest changes in the existing CAR to make it more inclusive and give it more teeth.We hope this would not be another lip service and another rule book to meet defiance rather than implementation that we see with the existing CAR.

The story has been covered by

Monday, April 2, 2012

JetBlue airways fined for inaccessible website

JetBlue violates disability rules, gets punished

JetBlue is in news again, and this time also not for good reasons. Few weeks back a lawsuit was filed against JetBlue airways for inadequate accessibility of check-in kiosks at the airport in addition to the inaccessibility of their website. This time the reason for the legal action is violation of rules protecting air travelers with disabilities and for failing to disclose when flights sold by the carrier were being operated under a code-sharing arrangement. The airline is being penalized $600,000 for the mistake.

The Department of Transportation ruled that $350,000 of the amount would have to be paid by the carrier, while $250,000 could be used to establish a task force to audit the carrier's handling of passengers with disabilities create a disability customer care center and enhance the carrier's website to improve its information for travelers with disabilities