Thai Airways subsidiary Thai Smile stopped accepting bookings from disabled people “for their own safety”.
Apanee Mitthong could not believe her ears when last November a Thai Smile's check-in staff told her the airline stopped carrying disabled people.
Miss Mitthong, who is national project manager of Disabled People’s International Asia-Pacific Region, did not waste a minute to voice her frustration.
On November 11 she started a petition on Change.org, urging Thai Smile resume service for passengers with disabilities. Her petition raised 19.610 signatures so far.
"I was denied access because of my disability, I just want to protect my rights," she told the Bangkok Post. "I want my case to make Thai airlines and airports offer equal service to passengers with disabilities.”
Thai Smile was not immediately available for comments. Thai media confirmed the airline introduced the ban on passengers with disabilities on November 6.
Airline management was quoted saying the decision to suspend accepting bookings from disabled people was taken because "carrying a disabled up the steps to the plane can be risky."
Apanee Mitthong’s protest did not go unheard. In December, management from the Office of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities of the Thai Ministry of Transport met with representative of Thai Smile. During the meeting, government officials reminded the airline of their legal obligation to help disabled passengers.
On December 14 Thai Smile resumed accepting disabled people for travel. It is unclear if there is a cap on the number of wheelchair users per flight.
Thai Smile is a low cost subsidiary of Thai Airways. Formed in 2012, the airline operates a fleet of 14 Airbus A320 aircraft to domestic and international destinations.