BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner is the latest victim of discrimination against the disabled, being refused to board a Kenya Airways flight.
51-year-old veteran journalist Frank Gardner is part paralyzed following an attempt on his life by Al Qaeda supporters.
The news reporter was shot in Saudi Arabia in 2004. He was shot six times and spent seven months in hospital. Gardner is part paralyzed. He relies on wheelchairs and a Zimmer frame, which allows him to walk short distances.
Gardner booked a flight to Africa with Kenya Airways. On May 4, the BBC correspondent made his way to Heathrow to catch his flight to Nairobi.
"I got to Heathrow an hour and a half before the flight, cutting it a bit fine,’ Frank Gardner told the Daily Mail. ‘When I got to the check-in desk, the official looked very worried that they seemed to have a disabled passenger. They said I could not go any further until I could prove I was travelling with other passengers.
"I managed to call my friend and go through the gate, but when I tried to board the flight they said, “We’re not letting you on because your Zimmer frame is too wide. You won’t be able to get to your seat.” I called my fellow passengers, who were back at the gate, and they raised hell and basically said they would boycott the flight unless I was allowed on board.
"I had to get out my press card to show who I was, and I believe that if I hadn’t done that, I would not have been able to fly, even though I’d paid for my ticket and the flight was not full."
Frank Gardner contacted Kenya Airways customer services, and he is waiting for replies.
Kenya Airways has to comply with 1107/2006, the regulation protecting the rights of the disabled traveling by air, for all flights originating from the UK or any other EU member state. Reduced Mobility Rights referred this story to the Civil Aviation Authority for review.
Gardner's experience made its way to mainstream media because of his high public profile. However, disabled passengers are being discriminated, humiliated and bullied on a daily basis. Most cases go unnoticed because victims just want to put the distressing experience behind them.
Those who wish to complain face an uphill battle just to learn who to file the complaint with. More can be read on this topic in our latest report about the CAA taking over disabled passengers’ complaint handling from the EHRC.
Discrimination against disabled passengers is not uncommon at London Heathrow airport. Last April, a disabled child who had pre booked assistance and was traveling with his own mobility device was left without support for 50 minutes. The CAA has opened an investigation into BAA's handling of the young passenger.
Kenya Airways was not available for comment. The flag carrier of Kenya operates a fleet of 34 aircraft to 56 destinations.