Monday, November 13, 2017

Woman forced to CARRY her disabled sister off Jetstar flight after the airline failed to provide a wheelchair when they arrived

  • Danae Florias was forced to carry her disabled sister, Marissa, off a Jetstar flight, 100 meters to the terminal
  • It's believed Ms Florias was also forced to assemble a wheelchair by herself without help from Jetstar staff
  • Jetstar has confirmed it has apologised to its customer and an investigation has been launched 

13 Nov 2017,  Daily Mail Australia

Airline Jetstar has come under fire for not providing a wheelchair to help a woman take her disabled sister from the plane to the terminal.

Perth woman Danae Florias and her sister 26-year-old Marissa, who has cerebral palsy, had been on a holiday to Melbourne last month and were returning to Perth on Jetstar.

The woman was disgusted with the treatment her and her sister were shown by the airline, telling Nine News she was forced to carry her sister 100 metres to the terminal without a wheelchair.

It's believed the wheelchair was supposed to be there, but wasn't, and when she got to the terminal, she had to assemble a supplied wheelchair herself without any help from staff. 'Eventually my sister started crying, thinking they'd lost her wheelchair. She gets very anxious and upset easy so I couldn't calm her down,' said Ms Florias.

When Daily Mail contacted the airline, it said that other media had not told the whole story behind the incident. 'While our customer service officer had a wheelchair on hand to assist with the customer’s transfer from the aircraft to the terminal, we understand this did not meet her specific needs. He then offered to provide additional support,' said a spokesperson. 

In a statement the airline confirmed that it had advised Ms Florias that the investigation into the matter, and the ongoing chain of events, was ongoing. 'Every year Jetstar carries 60,000 passengers with specific needs,' said a Jetstar spokesperson.

'These reports are concerning and do not reflect the normal flight experience of our disabled passengers, many of whom fly with Jetstar often.'  'We apologize to the family for the distress involved and we're investigating how this occurred.'

This is the latest bungle in a series of incidents the airline has come under fire for of its treatment of customers with a disability. In 2009 the budget line upset three-time Paralympic gold medallist Kurt Fearnley, who said he felt humiliated when the airline wouldn't allow him to use his own wheelchair. And more recently, renowned Australian musician Jim Conway was left frustrated by the airline, unable to board a flight to Melbourne earlier this year, because it did not have measures in place to transfer him safely into his seat. 

Ms Florias told Nine news that she would never fly Jetstar again.

Source: Daily Mail UK

Saturday, October 14, 2017

CISF amends guidelines to avoid humiliating security checks at Airports for people with disabilities

No X-ray screening for disabled at airports (Times of India) 

Jasjeev Gandhiok | TNN | Updated: Oct 14, 2017, 

NEW DELHI: People with disabilities won't have to face lengthy and "humiliating" security checks at airports anymore, with the Central Industrial Security Force issuing guidelines on how to scan passengers on wheelchairs and those wearing prosthetics. While earlier, PWDs were required to go through an X-ray screening, now checking with a hand-held explosive trace detector (ETD) device will suffice. Passengers will be asked to go through an X-ray screening only if there is "sufficient doubt".

In addition, they won't have to remove their prosthetic limbs for security check. The decision came after a meeting was held on Wednesday between officials of CISF, the airport sector, BCAS and the ministry of civil aviation and representatives of NGOs working for PWD rights.

Earlier, a committee had been constituted to review the security-check process based on BCAS provisions to make it more "friendly" for PWDs. Officials said standard operating procedures would soon be formulated, which will be used across all 59 airports under CISF.

"All issues were addressed at the meeting, following which it was decided to tweak the system of frisking of such passengers. Now, a visual inspection and an ETD hand-held device scanning will suffice while wheelchair-bound passengers will also get relief," said O P Singh, CISF DG.

CISF officials said the screening officer would also be required to make an entry into a register each time he subjected a PWD passenger to an X-ray screening, stating the reason for doing so. "We are looking at any technological aid that can further make this process easier. CISF personnel at all 59 airports will now be trained and sensitized according to the new procedures," Singh added.

Disability rights activists welcomed the move, saying it was long overdue. "It's humiliating to get off the wheelchair and remove prosthetics for scanning. More people will look forward to flying again," said Javed Abidi, director, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People.

Suvarna Raj, a wheelchair-bound para-athlete who has often faced inconvenience at airports, said the move would lead to greater accountability.

Source: Times of India 

Another related news in DNA India: 

CISF: Disabled no longer have to remove prosthetics for airport security  

Mumbai | 14 Oct 2017

In a major relief to the disabled, the CISF will no longer carry out the "humiliating" airport security drill of asking people with disabilities (PWDs) to remove their prosthetics or make them get up from their wheelchair for screening at the airports. The announcement was made by the CISF Director General OP Singh.

The DG said that the Central Industrial Security Force will now use explosive trace detectors (ETDs) and visual profiling to meet the security needs. The Force will also conduct a country-wide survey to find out how many such passengers travel by air each day.

"The aim is to ensure that such passengers do not face any humiliation or uneasiness when they travel through Indian airports. We have seen numerous complaints in this regard. What we have decided now is to use explosive trace detectors and the visual profiling method of the passenger and his prosthetic tool or wheelchair rather than asking them to take out everything," Singh said.

The current procedure is to ask passengers to take off their prosthetics before boarding a flight and ask to get up from those on a wheelchair.

"We are soon going to issue a fresh list of standard operating procedures (SOPs) to usher the new regime in a uniform manner," the DG said.

"We will also conduct a survey at all the 59 airports that we guard to see how many such PWD passengers we receive on an average. That will give us a fair idea as to how to go about implementing the new SOPs."

A senior official in the CISF airport sector said they have estimated that about eight-10 such passengers use Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) every day, the busiest airport in the country.

"Passengers with prosthetics will be asked to remove them only under compelling circumstances which will be purely security concerns. The same procedure will be adopted for wheelchair-bound passengers and those with other disabilities," the official said.

The director general added that CISF was also looking at "simplifying the security procedures for passengers with orthopaedic issues."

In case of prosthetics with foam padding, he said, CISF personnel will use new SOPs but can seek its removal, keeping in mind security concerns.

Disability rights activist Javed Abidi, who attended a recent meeting with the CISF authorities on the subject, raised his concerns during a recent conversation.

"I have travelled across the globe for so many years now but only at an Indian airport do I have to get down from my wheelchair so that the security personnel on duty can put it inside a large X-Ray machine to check it against explosives and other hazardous material that can be a threat to the aircraft or aviation security," Abidi, the convener of the Disabled Rights Group, said.

It is very difficult and embarrassing, he said, for people who have prosthetic or artificial limbs to take out the entire part in full public view inside an airport.

The CISF is the central paramilitary force tasked with guarding 59 civil airports in the country.

Source: DNA India

Friday, October 13, 2017

CISF takes steps to make Screening at Airports more friendly to Flyers with Disabilities

Dear Colleagues,

Here is the coverage from The Wire on our recent meeting with the DG CISF wherein issues of hassles faced by persons with disabilities at the time of screening at the Air ports were the focus of discussion and the DG, CISF agreed to examine ways by which this experience could be made more friendly.

Bureau of Civil Aviation and Security Allows for X-Ray Scanning for PwDs as Measure of Last Resort


The developments assume significance as in the past, several persons with disabilities have suffered humiliation at the hands of security or airlines staff at airports across India.

New Delhi: The long fight of disability rights activists for making air travel more friendly and sensitive towards the needs of persons with disability (PwD) appears to have finally borne some fruit.  The Bureau of Civil Aviation and Security (BCAS) has accepted the recommendations of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) to use X-ray scanning for prosthetics and orthotics only as a measure of the last resort. Instructions have also been issued to make wheelchair users get up from their chairs only in exceptional cases for security checks.

The decision was made known at a meeting convened by director general of the CISF, O.P. Singh, on October 11, which had representatives of the BCAS, Ministry of Civil Aviation, the Air Passengers Association of India and representatives of the disability sector. The meeting, which lasted close to 90 minutes, was attended by top members of the CISF along with its senior officers deployed at the airports.

Among those present in the meeting were Javed Abidi, director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), cyclist Aditya Mehta, Subhash Chandra Vashishth, Rajesh Bhatia, Nipun Malhotra and associate professor of physiology at the University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi, Satendra Singh.

Instances of humiliation of PwDs
The developments assume significance as in the past, several PwDs have suffered humiliation at the hands of security or airlines staff at airports across India. In 2013, above-knee amputee and marketing professional Suranjana Ghosh Aikara was made to take off her prosthetic leg for a scan at both Delhi and Mumbai airports.

Anjlee Agarwal of the Samarthyam National Centre for Accessible Environments, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, faced two odd situations in early 2012; first, when she was bodily lifted by male porters and the other, when she was carted around on a luggage trolley. Her experience made her seek more dignified travel for PwD travellers.

SC had issued directives
In 2012, Jeeja Ghosh, a teacher at the Indian Institute for Cerebral Palsy in Kolkata, was made to deplane because the staff found her to be ‘abnormal’. Following her appeal, the Supreme Court constituted a committee and directed the DGCA and the BCAS to consult with disabled section of India’s population.

However, according to Singh, despite directions by the apex court, the BCAS continues to evade this directive. However, Singh lauded the role being played by the CISF, saying it continued to “remain receptive”. Singh also noted that the BCAS had chosen to remain absent from the high-level meeting chaired by the director general of the DGCA with the Airports Authority of India, all the airlines and the disability sector on April 7 this year.

However, Abidi appreciated the change in the approach of both the CISF and the BCAS towards the issue. “There has been a lot of discussion and exchange of notes between the CISF and BCAS of late. It was a well-rounded meeting, almost a closure type, and I was impressed by the seriousness of purpose. It was called to problem-solve and to bring about a change,” he said.

BCAS constituted a panel to look into demands of PwDs
Stating that the CISF has already sent its recommendations to the BCAS and that the latter had constituted a committee which held its meeting a few days ago, Abidi said that the CISF had only invited one user of prosthetics and another from the wheelchair lobby from the diverse disability sector. “So the focus was more on prosthetics and the concerns of the wheelchair users”, he said.

As for other categories of PwDs, he said, they too suffer problems but these are not related to security and need to be handled by the civil aviation ministry and other agencies. “The visually impaired are facing a big problem these days since all the airports have been made sound-free and therefore, the announcement of change of gate for departure of flight is not made through loudspeakers. So a blind person is unable to know that the gate has been changed,” Abidi said.

“Similarly, persons with speech impairment find it difficult to tell their preferences to the airlines staff or about food preference to the air-stewards,” he added.

X-ray to be used as a last resort
Acknowledging that the users of prosthetics, orthotics and wheelchairs remain among the worst affected, Abidi said that the new developments are very positive. “Broadly, it has been decided that in the case of wheelchair users, X-ray should be the last option. The standard practice globally was to profile the passengers, frisk them, make them go through the explosive trace detectors (ETD) if need be and to send their gadgets for X-rays if there was greater suspicion,” he said.

“The world over, X-ray is rarest of rare and in all my travels abroad, even to the US in the post 9/11 era, never have I been asked to get off my wheelchair. However, in Indian airports, it is a norm”, Abidi said. Moreover, he lamented, unlike airports abroad, the CISF personnel have been following the norm of making wheelchair users get off their chairs as part of the security drill. So what is rarest of rare the world over, is their preferred norm here,” he added.

Abidi said the blame should not be placed on the CISF alone. “What should also be remembered is that while the CISF drew the flak, the policies are actually drawn up by the BCAS, which prepares the manual and instructions. So the real change has to occur not with the CISF but with the BCAS.”
The rights activist is hopeful that meaningful changes are being effected. He pointed out how the CISF recently undertook a full training programme for its personnel to sensitise them towards autism. The programme was conducted in association with Merry Barua’s organisation, Action for Autism. “It had sensitised the CISF personnel about the behaviour and concerns of passengers suffering from autism and how they were like to react in different situations“, Abidi said.

Note: This article was authored by Sh. Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar and was published on 13th October 2017 at The Wire

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Discriminated for no fault: Airlines, airports in India fail their ‘special’ fliers

Aug 29, 2017, 1:12 am IST  | DECCAN CHRONICLE. | DONITA JOSE

Hyderabad: For the disabled, journeys on domestic flights are tales of never-ending turbulence. Days after the de-boarding of para-athlete Madhu Bagri from a Hyderabad-bound plane, the demand for standardisation of air travel protocols for the disabled has grown stronger. 

Hyderabad: International para-athlete Suvarna Raj says that she was de-boarded from a plane in a similar manner last month. “I reached a little late than usual and was given my boarding pass. But they denied me entry because my security check would take longer,” she says. She missed her flight and was allocated a seat on a flight which departed the next day. 

Experts say that such an incident would have never occurred had India been following International Protocol and using Explosive Trace Detection Systems (ETDs). These systems allow for security checks to be carried out without disabled persons having to part with their accessibility gear. 

A look at the figures (courtesy Times of India)
Nipun Malhotra, the founder of the Nipman Foundation, says, “I filed an RTI and found that over 77 airports in the country have ETDs, but they are not being used anywhere. Instead, we are forced to be transferred from our wheelchair or remove our prosthetic limbs in the name of security.”

Persons with disability ask why they have to undergo such humiliation when the necessary technology is available.

Their troubles do not end after the security check. “As per the procedure that is followed internationally, disabled persons are allowed to take their wheelchairs up to the aircraft door, where they are shifted to aisle chairs which can pass through the cabin. However, in India, the wheelchair goes into the baggage compartment and disabled passengers are physically lifted and carried to their seats, which is not only dangerous but also humiliating,” says Ms Suvarna Raj. Some airlines do not have aisle chairs, in which case the availability of seats in the front row becomes crucial, as was in the case of Madhu Bagri.

As per the protocol to be followed in Boeing flights, disabled persons may be seated in the front row. However, in smaller ATR flights, the emergency exit doors are located in the front, requiring mobile persons to be seated adjacent to them.

Accessibility experts say that some airlines do not have any provision for the assistance of disabled persons, as a result of which they are forced to crawl or drag themselves to their seats, which constitutes a violation of their human rights.

“The crux of the problem is that there is no penalty. Every time a disabled person with some privilege faces a problem, it is highlighted. But many unprivileged disabled persons face problems on a daily basis. Why can’t the Directorate General of Civil Aviation penalise airlines, airports instead of merely issuing warnings?” asks Mr Javed Abidi, the director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People. 

Mr Abidi has helped the CISF chalk out a detailed plan of action. He says that the airline services must incorporate a provision for the declaration of disability at the ticketing stage to avoid such hassles.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Cochin International Airport Snubs Paralympic Champion


Aug 18, 2017, 

Athlete forced to wait in taxi car for 45 mins.

Kochi : Even Sachin Tendulkar tweeted how “extra proud” he was “of Team India’s performance at the World Dwarf Games”, but not everyone shared the same feelings toward the champion athletes. Certainly, not the Cochin International Airport (CIAL) authorities. Kerala athlete Joby Mathew, who was the pride of the 15-member Indian team that bagged 37 medals at the World Dwarf Games held in Canada, with a personal haul of six medals, two of which were Gold, was allegedly humiliated by the airport security on his triumphant homecoming.

The 41-year-old, who is physically challenged from birth with 60 per cent disabilities, was made to sit inside the taxi, he had hired at the airport, for nearly 45 minutes while the vehicle was tied to a chain for allegedly violating traffic rules inside the premises. “It was a painful experience,” said Joby Mathew, who added that he was “humiliated” by the authorities for a “humanitarian consideration” shown by the taxi driver. “There was lot of rush at the gates and I couldn’t make it through. So, the taxi driver agreed to pick me up some 25 metres further down the exit, but the authorities treated it as a violation and chained the vehicle with me inside,” said Joby.

Ernakulam district sports council president Zakir Hussain who was at the airport to receive the athlete said the authorities kept hold of the vehicle even after being informed about the passenger’s details and his physical condition. Airport director A.C.K. Nair maintained that they had only followed rules and claimed that the athlete’s vehicle was released soon after they found out who he was. “The driver had broken the rules by taking a one-way,” said Mr Nair. Meanwhile, Joby informed that their journey until then had been pleasant as the cabin crew of all three flights they boarded from Canada to Kochi had announced “how proud they were to have us on board”.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Para-Athlete Alleges Mistreatment by Airlines

PTI | 15 Aug 2017

New Delhi : A para athlete today alleged that she was "ill-treated" by the crew of a private airlines and "forcefully offloaded", even as the airlines refuted the claims.

Madhu Bagri, a wheelchair tennis player, said that she had booked herself on a SpiceJet flight from Tirupati to Hyderabad, which was scheduled to take off at 8.25 am. But she was later evicted from the aircraft.

According to the athlete, she was unable to reach her seat as the wheelchair could not fit in between the aisles of the aircraft, leading to an argument with the crew.

"As the aisle was not wide enough for the wheelchair, I was asked to walk or crawl to reach my seat in the third row. When I asked the crew to accommodate me in the front row, they told me that it was an emergency seat and that differently-abled people were barred from occupying it," Bagri told PTI.

"They threw me out with my baggage and left me at the arrivals section of the airport without giving me any solution to reach my destination," she complained.

The tennis player has lodged a complaint with the airport director. The airlines, however, denied any manhandling and ill treatment of the sports person.

"On reaching the aircraft, the passenger insisted on having the front row seat. All front row seats in Q400 Bombardier aircraft are emergency exit rows and hence, passengers with any kind of disability are not allowed to sit on these seats as per the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) rules," a SpiceJet spokesperson said in a statement.

The airline said Bagri was offloaded as the plane was getting delayed, adding that "at no point was she manhandled or mistreated and the SpiceJet women staff assisted her out."

As per the DGCA rules on Carriage by Air - Persons with Disability and/or Persons with Reduced Mobility, airlines shall not allocate those seats to persons with disability or reduced mobility where their presence would impede the crew in performing their duties, obstruct access to emergency equipment or impede emergency evacuation path of the aircraft."

The aviation body also mandates that in case a differently-abled passenger is offloaded, the airline will have to provide assistance.

"If passengers for any reason have to be offloaded, highest possible priority for transportation shall be given to persons with disability or reduced mobility, including their escorts, if any," it says.

SpiceJet noted that it had made arrangements for the athlete on a bigger aircraft which was scheduled to fly later in the day.

"The passenger was given a choice to travel by SpiceJets Boeing flight, which was scheduled to depart at 4:30 pm and she was also informed that the first row seat would be reserved for her. However, the passenger continued to use offensive language," the statement said. PTI JC SRY

Source: India Today

Indigo Airlines Draws Flak over Broken Wheelchair

Dear Colleagues,

We have always found IndiGo Airlines as one of the few good, sensitive, compassionate and responsible Airlines in India. However, after Nipun Malhotra's Facebook post below that went viral, Media quickly picked up the story highlighting the issue.

Facebook post of Mr. Nipun Malhotra:
"Extremely disappointing that I was brought down the plane in a broken wheelchair by
IndiGo DEL - BOM 6E 167 - big safety threat! Sad to see the fall in standards!" 

No doubt, the onus of keeping the wheelchairs safe in the cargo hold lies with IndiGo and yet we have a wheelchair that has visible damage and is potentially unsafe for the passenger now. The policy on refund / bearing the cost of repair/ replacing the broken part of the wheelchair is very vague and doesn't specify that the exact part be replaced or cost paid to the passenger. The modern wheelchairs may range from few thousand rupees to few lakh Indian Rupees.  Here is the coverage in Mumbai Mirror:

By Satish Nandgaonkar, Mumbai Mirror | Updated: Aug 14, 2017

Indigo Airlines was at the receiving end of social media ire after a 29-year-old differently-abled activist, lodged a strong protest against the carrier for allocating him a broken wheelchair when he landed in Mumbai on Sunday morning.

"Extremely disappointing that I was brought down the plane in a broken wheelchair by Indigo6E DELMUM 6E 167 - Big safety threat," Nipun Malhotra tweeted, along with pictures of a damaged spoke of the wheelchair's rim, causing a flutter on social media.

According to Malhotra, they were alighting from the Delhi-Mumbai flight, which arrived at 9:30 am on Sunday, when he noticed the broken wheelchair. "I had my personal attendant travelling with me. When we were coming down the ramp, the wheelchair felt rickety and we noticed that a spoke was broken. It was an extremely scary experience. Once down, the airline staff even tried to stop us from taking pictures," said Malhotra, who is a co-founder and CEO of Nipman Foundation.

The Foundation runs Wheels for Life initiative which encourages donors to donate wheelchairs to the needy. Malhotra not only writes regularly on disability issues, his efforts also led to Zomato incorporating `wheelchair access' filters and wheelchairs being made available at events like NH7 music festival and the Jaipur Literature Festival.

Meanwhile, Indigo's swiftly apologised on Twitter."We believe someone from our team has contacted you. We truly regret the experience and assure you we're treating this with utmost importance. Our passenger safety and comfort is extremely important for us," read a post by the Twitter handle.When contacted, Indigo spokesperson promised to issue a formal response soon but the same was awaited at the time of going to press.

Incidentally, Indigo is one of the most preferred airlines for people with disabilities (PwDs). The carrier has received The Disability Matters Award Asia Pacific thrice, including in 2017.

"Indigo is also the preferred airline for many of us but I am sad that the standards have fallen. I want an unconditional apology from the airline, and it should come out with a Standard Operating Procedure to ensure that this does not happen ever again," Malhotra told Mumbai Mirror.

The incident comes less than a month after para-athlete Suvarna Raj took on Indigo for not allowing her to board the Delhi-Udaipur flight on July 19 claiming there was no time to scan her wheelchair before boarding.

Suvarna had won two medals at 2013 Para Table Tennis Open Championship held in Thailand and was also honoured by President Pranab Mukherjee with National Role Model and National Youth Awards in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

While Suvarna alleged that she reached the IGI airport in Delhi at 12.45 pm for the 1.25 pm flight but was not allowed to board by the airline staff.The airline, meanwhile, refuted her claim and said that she arrived at 12.54 pm, which was 10 minutes after they closed the boarding gate.

"Such things happen regularly to us. A broken spoke of a wheelchair can be dangerous for us who are wheelchair-bound, and Nipun is right in demanding more than a regret from the airline," said Raj, who was allegedly forced to sleep on the floor on the Nagpur-Nizamuddin Garib Rath Express in June after she was allocated an upper birth despite mentioning her disability while booking her tickets.

Indigo is one of India's leading low cost airlines with a 40 per cent market share as of June 2017.  It has a fleet of 136 aircraft, including 22 new generation A320 Neos.

Source: Mumbai Mirror

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Vanilla Air makes a wheelchair user to drag himself in to flight; refuses any physical help in absence of ambulift.

Airline apologizes for making wheelchair user climb up boarding ramp on his hands

TOKYO: A Japanese airline said Wednesday it has apologized for making a wheelchair user hoist himself up a staircase from the tarmac to board his flight. 

Hideto Kijima, a vivd traveler and President of Japan Accessible Tourism Center,  faced the problem earlier this month while returning to Osaka from the southern island of Amami with friends. 
Image of Hideto Kijima, President - Japan Accessible Tourism Centre
Mr. Hideto Kijima, President,
Japan Accessible Tourism Centre

Vanilla Air, the budget affiliate of Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways, told him before boarding on June 5 that the small airport requires the use of stairs and has no lift to safely carry a disabled person onto the plane. Vanilla also refused to let his friends carry him in his wheelchair or separately. 

Kijima, 44, who is paralyzed from the waist down, wrote on his blog that he got out of the wheelchair, resisted airline staff who tried to stop him and hoisted himself up the stairs with his arms, a process that took several minutes. 

"I just had to ignore them and keep moving up, or I could not go back to Osaka,'' he wrote. One of his friends helped push him, and at the top he was put into a wheelchair and taken to his seat. "I've never thought I would be refused to fly for not being able to walk,'' he said. "It's a human rights violation.'' 

Vanilla said it has apologized to Kijima and that new lifts are being installed. 

"We apologized to him for the unpleasant experience,'' Vanilla spokesman Akihiro Ishikawa said. "We also explained that we are taking measures to improve our service.'' 

Japanese media reported on his ordeal on Wednesday. 

Kijima, an advocate of barrier-free traveling, who alsoheads the Japan Accessible Tourism Center, a nonprofit in the city of Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture - the center that provides foreign tourists with disabilities who need assistance with information about travel in Japan- says he has visited 158 countries and used 200 airports, and has never been rejected before. He says he is not asking for fancy equipment but just some assistance. 

Ishikawa said Amami is the only airport on Vanilla's 14 international and domestic routes without lifts for wheelchair users.


1. Economic Times 
2. Japan Times

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

American Airline label a flyer with disability (a double amputee) as 'intoxicated"; called police

In the instant case, the American Airlines is facing a lawsuit after it called cops to escort a flyer with disability - a double amputee, labeling him "intoxicated' after forgetting his wheelchair.

As the American Airlines plane full of passengers looked on, two law enforcement officers escorted Mr. Michael Mennella — a double amputee with no feet — down the aisle and into the airport. They told him he was under arrest for extreme intoxication. But soon enough, the officers realized Mennella was sober. He'd simply hobbled down the aisle to ask for a drink on a flight that departed Miami without the wheelchair the airline had promised him.

That's what Mennella, a businessman traveling for work, claims in a new lawsuit that's sure to fuel more anger at airlines for horribly mistreating their passengers.

"As demonstrated by police-administered field tests, and as revealed in an official field report, Mr. Mennella was not intoxicated," says the suit, filed in federal court in Miami. "Instead, he was an innocent victim of AA's brutish misconduct."

In an emailed statement, American Airlines declined to comment on the specifics of Mennella's case but said it is committed to providing a positive and safe travel experience to all of its customers and looks forward to addressing his concerns.

Mennella's ordeal began August 28, 2016, when he arrived at Miami International Airport and discovered that American had not reserved a wheelchair he requested. A Florida resident, he was headed to Las Vegas with some colleagues for a conference.

Since losing his feet in a car accident six years ago, Mennella has sought assistance boarding flights. When American Airlines told him no wheelchair was available for the flight to Vegas, he was forced to struggle down the jet bridge, which caused pain to flare up in his legs.

Mennella asked for water to take his medicine, the lawsuit says, but a flight attendant refused. After asking several times, he walked on his stumps to the back of the plane to ask another attendant for help. His request went ignored, and he struggled back to his seat.

American Airlines personnel told passengers seated near Mennella, including his colleagues, that he was "a drunk" and that the plane was being diverted to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. The airline had told airport police that Mennella was "intoxicated to the point of needing medical attention," according to a police report included in the lawsuit.

"The law enforcement officers proceeded to tell Mr. Mennella that he was being arrested for a felony due to his intoxication, and that the severity of his crime merited a lengthy incarceration," the lawsuit says.

But once the officers began speaking with Mennella, they concluded he was not under the influence of any kind of substance, police reports indicate. He was released and had to arrange for a different flight to Las Vegas.

Mennella's suit claims American defamed him and damaged his reputation by calling him a drunk and taking him off the plane. It also argues the airline's actions were negligent.

In an email included in the lawsuit, an American Airlines customer service representative told Mennella that the flight had to be diverted due to his "disruptive and unruly behavior" and lewd language and that the pilot made the decision "for the safety of all passengers."

"We believe our pilot made the correct decision in this situation," the email said, "and we apologize if you feel otherwise."

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Frontier Airlines Refused a Blind Flyer to Board the Flight with Child in Florida, USA

The Tampa Bay Times reports that a legally blind flyer was refused by Frontier Airlines to board a flight with his 18-month-old grand daughter.

As per the report, Kliphton Miller tried to board a Frontier flight from Tampa to Las Vegas with the child on May 23, 2017. The 44-year-old Miller asked for help getting on the plane once he reached his gate. That's when airline employees began to question his ability to watch over the young child during the trip, according to Miller.

"I frequently fly with my grand daughter on other airlines and had flown on Frontier with her before too, but they still denied me access," Miller told the newspaper. "I was denied because I am blind. They told me I was a liability."

Frontier employees told Miller that he would be a liability in the case of an emergency, he said. They said it was against their corporate policy to let him on board.

"I would have been fine on the plane," Miller told The Tampa Bay Times. "Usually flight attendants will help me to the bathroom if I need to change her, but I can do it myself. I was a single dad for 10 years before I got married, and then I was a stay-at-home dad. I am completely capable." 

Frontier later apologized and rescheduled his trip to Las Vegas free of charge. Richard Oliver, a spokesman with Frontier, called the incident a "customer service failure."

For the complete news please visit CBS News weblink

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Air Canada dumps family with disabled son at Toronto Airport in freezing cold

Dear Colleagues,

A passenger travelling with his disabled son has accused Air Canada of abandoning his family at Toronto Pearson airport.

Euan McGilp, 56, was flying back from Ohio to London with his wife and two teenage sons, one of whom has Down Syndrome, when delays meant they missed their connecting flight from Toronto Pearson airport.

Euan says that when they landed in Canada on 20 April, Air Canada’s treatment of them added up to a catalogue of failures. “After we’d all checked in everything started to go wrong,” he told The Independent.

Formerly a head teacher for 15 years, Euan had to retire on medical grounds after he suffered a sudden brain injury six years ago. He had been working with a specialist team for the past two years to prepare him for the trip to the States to see some old friends. He said: “This was the first break we’ve taken since I collapsed. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to fly again. We can’t even talk about the holiday because I keep flashing back to the problems and getting angry and upset.”

Upon arrival at Toronto, the family were left on the tarmac in freezing temperatures according to Euan, while waiting for his son’s wheelchair to be unloaded from the plane. David, 14, has various other complex needs in addition to Down Syndrome, yet the family were left shivering in the cold for 15 minutes. “David has no internal temperature regulation, he was practically turning blue,” said Euan.

They were then taken to the special assistance area and told to wait to be taken onwards to their connecting flight. “All the lights were off and there was no one around,” said Euan. “We were dumped and abandoned there in the dark – we seemed to be too much trouble for anybody.”

The family had already missed their original 8.40pm flight to London Heathrow due to delays on the first leg of the journey, but had been rebooked onto the 11.10pm flight and assured by Air Canada that they would make their connection.

After half an hour’s wait, having been ignored by the various Air Canada staff members they’d asked for help, one man took pity on the McGilps and directed them to the flight connections desk. It transpired that, due to the wait at special assistance, the family had missed their connecting flight and would have to be rebooked to fly the following evening.

“The connections team were incredibly rude – I’ve never met such rude people in my life,” said Euan. “They couldn’t do enough for first class passengers and didn’t give a damn about economy ticket holders. You’d think airlines would be concerned about getting it right for vulnerable people, whether it’s youngsters or the disabled.

“One chap clearly struggling with PTSD was told to ‘shut up’. There were threats and intimidation, it was awful.”

The family were eventually given a voucher for a stay in a hotel, but by this point they were also worried about David’s health issues. “We explained that we had a doubly incontinent disabled child with us and that, at Air Canada's original instruction, we only had enough sanitary and medical products to last him the expected flight plus a few hours. According to staff, this was ‘not their problem’.”

The nightmare journey continued, as the family were taken outside to await a shuttle bus to their hotel. It was 12.50am. After waiting for an hour and a half for transport that never came, they eventually discovered from another driver that their hotel no longer offered a shuttle service.

“When asking for help, another member of staff told my wife that 'Travelling is stressful for everyone' and that we should just 'Deal with it',” said Euan. “She then got in the lift and left, leaving my wife in tears and clearly having no care for our situation with my disabled son.”

Finally, at 3.30am, the McGilp family say they managed to speak to a customer service advisor who was willing to help. She moved them onto a 9am flight – but the family were subsequently forced to spend the remainder of the night in the departure lounge. When they boarded the plane, they discovered they weren’t seated together, despite Melanie and their older son Rogan, 17, being designated carers for Euan and David.

The icing on the cake came when the family arrived into Heathrow to find only one bag out of seven waiting for them. The other six had been left in Toronto.

After complaining to Air Canada about their treatment, the McGilps were offered 25 per cent off if they booked more Air Canada flights in the next 12 months. “They’ve saved some money in compensation because there’s no way I would ever travel Air Canada again – I can’t,” said Euan. “I’m really frightened about what’s going to happen now. Part of my brain injury is to look for the worst in things. We’ll have to find an airline we can work with and try again in a few years.”

Euan paid more to fly with Air Canada because it claims to offer support for those with additional needs; the family could have saved over £1,000 by flying with a cheaper airline, says Euan. “We chose this airline because we thought it was a reputable company. We thought, with two disabled clients in a family, they would be able to get it right.”

The McGilp family’s dream holiday will be forever tarnished by the return journey from hell, says Euan: “We had the most fantastic time, a wonderful experience – but it’s been completely trashed, whether by incompetence or sheer callousness on Air Canada’s part, I’m not sure.

“I know things go wrong. I’m just asking people to do their job with a little bit of sympathy and compassion. That was frighteningly lacking from Air Canada.”

Air Canada has not yet responded to The Independent's request for comment.

This follows an incident where a 15-year-old passenger was abandoned overnight at Toronto airport by Air Canada, despite being a minor.

Source: The Independent 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

How will visually impaired flyers manage in silent terminals?


May 7, 2017

The orientation map will give him confidence that he is being taken in the right direction by the helper " said a senior airport official.

Chennai: The decision by Airports Authority of India (AAI) to declare Chennai airport as a silent one has raised concerns from people with disabilities, especially the blind.

While air travellers have demanded an increase in displays and sending of SMSs informing passengers well in advance, the question remained how visually-challenged travellers will be able to board the aircraft without hassles.

To cater to people with blindness, meanwhile, the AAI in Chennai is also working with a local institution for people with disabilities to create a tactile map of the airport that would provide them directions to move about. "This will be in addition to the helper's assistance.

The orientation map will give him confidence that he is being taken in the right direction by the helper "  said a senior airport official. "In a span of two months, the map should be ready," the official added.

"Till the orientation map materialises, however, the existing Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) of each airline operator providing a traveller with disabilities, a helper will still continue. Right from entering the airport boarding a flight, there is assistance, so the visually impaired travellers need not worry about missing announcements," said a senior AAI official at Chennai.

"Besides that, we haven't become completely silent, minor enhancements, including that of a gate change and delays are being made. Gradually, the airport will be made completely silent and all announcements will be done through SMSs," the official added.

According to senior officials, the move was taken to reduce the confusion caused due to multiple announcements.' "Passengers get frustrated with noise, and this move is to increase the comfort of travellers," an official said.

The official added that different zones in the airport are being earmarked for making announcements - last minute calls, gate change, delays will be announced in different zones.

For visually-challenged travellers, having a helper in case of extended delays is again troublesome. "Having an announcement system linked to an app will help them board their planes without the fear of missing their flights," said Smitha Sadasivan of Disabilities Rights Alliance.

No separate provisions for differently abled available

After Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad, Chennai has been declared as silent airport.  But officials at other airports say no separate provisions for the visually-challenged are available.

Ketan Kothari, a visually-challenged frequent flyer, from Mumbai, said that people like him are overly dependent on announcements, and there have been a few incidents in the past where people have missed their flights at airports like Delhi and Mumbai.

“Reducing anxiety and stress by making airports silent is a concept aped from airports in the West, and going by that logic even railway stations can be made silent. If an area around a hospital is made silent, it is understandable but why an airport,” he questioned.

He added that despite having assistance from airlines before boarding a flight, a person needs to have the confidence that he won't miss his flight, and for that announcements are imperative.

Speaking of the introduction of the silent airport concept in Delhi, a spokesperson of Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) said that with about 40 flight departures per hour, multiple boarding announcements in multiple languages for each flight is not a practical choice for an airport of a huge size, Delhi, for instance.

Rules for the provision of assistance applies to all Persons with Restricted Mobility (PRM) as per the international rules by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

“Still, depending on the need, the announcements are made near the boarding gate area for last minute passengers and any emergency situations,” he added.
The spokesperson also said that the same provisions are provided for all people with special needs, by airports going out of their way to ensure a hassle-free experience with the help of the airport staff — right from CISF at the entrance, to help desks, airline staff, and assistance providers.

“All help provided is based on the regulations in place, and if there's a change in the regulations, similar arrangements would be made accordingly in future,” the spokesperson continued.

Source: Deccan Chronicle 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

HT Editorial - Callous airline staff’s attitude reflects our apathy towards India’s disabled population

Apr 27, 2017 | Hindustan Times | Editorial

On Wednesday, cricketer Harbhajan Singh tweeted about an incident where an expat pilot abused and assaulted two travellers flying to Mumbai, one of them a person with orthopaedic disability. Apart from changing India’s famously inaccessible built environment we need to develop a culture of sensitivity towards the country’s 2.68 crore disabled.

There’s more to it than just racism. On Wednesday, cricketer Harbhajan Singh tweeted about alleged racism by an expat pilot from Jet Airways. According to Singh, the pilot abused and assaulted two travellers flying to Mumbai, one of them a person with an orthopaedic disability. When the flight landed, he had to wait for 25 minutes for the wheelchair to be brought to the seat. On top of it, the pilot screamed at him for checking-in the wheelchair and delaying the flight. This was done despite the airline allowing them to check it in at Chandigarh from where they had boarded.

This is not the first time a wheelchair-bound traveller has complained of misbehaviour by airline crew. Last year, Paralympics silver winner Deepa Malik filed a complaint against poor handling of wheelchair-bound passengers by the staff of Air Vistara. “The wheelchair handling is so poor that you do not know how to shift a person from seat to cabin chair. The entire staff stands and looks at each other for 10 minutes,” she had said. In 2015, disability rights activist Javed Abidi was forced to get off his wheelchair at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport. Despite protests, the CISF warned him to comply or miss his flight. Ironically, in 2014, Abidi was part of a panel of activists who had helped frame guidelines to ensure there was no discrimination on the basis of disability in air travel.

According to the 2011 Census, the number of disabled in India stands at 2.68 crore, or 2.21 per cent of the population. India’s built environment is infamously inhospitable to the disabled and the elderly, confining them to their homes. Most public buildings lack ramps and even ATM machines have steps leading up to them. The recently passed Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2016, promises barrier-free access to buildings to the disabled, but implementation is lax. Merely de-rostering the pilot, as Jet Airways did, won’t be enough to change the ground reality on discrimination. We need to inculcate a culture of sensitivity towards the physically challenged.