Airlines Discrimination Against The Disabled A Global Scourge
- Written by Roberto Castiglioni
In recent months there have been an alarmingly growing number of discrimination complaints filed by disabled passengers against airlines.
While countries rush to adopt or enforce laws protecting the rights of disabled passengers traveling by air, complaints filed by passengers with reduced mobility against airlines are booming worldwide, exposing the global scourge of discrimination against the most vulnerable by airline employees.
Russian Marina Barlukova, 18, was scheduled to fly back home from Moscow after undergoing amputation of a lower limb and chemotherapy. Marina purchased three seats from Vladivostok Air, to ensure she could rest during her six hour flight from Moscow to Ulan-Ude.
The day before her scheduled departure, Vladivostok Air told Marina that she would not be let on-board unless she could provide assurances that nothing would happen to her during the flight. Marina was also asked to pay an additional £160 ($270).
The Russian Maritime Transportation Prosecutors office opened an investigation into Marina's case.
In the United States, TSA has come under fire from the media for mishandling disabled children searches at checkpoints.
Recently, a Long Island family missed their flight from JFK Airport in New York to Florida after a Transport Security Agency representative picked on Dina Frank, a disabled seven-year-old girl who suffers from cerebral palsy.
Dina was unable walk through the metal detectors without setting alarms off because of her crutches. She was instead subjected to an intrusive pat down by TSA security agents.
The unexpected, invasive search turned out to be a severely stressful situation for the girl. The TSA did not apologize. "TSA has reviewed the incident and determined that our officers followed proper screening procedures in conducting a modified pat down on the child," the agency said in a statement.
Disabled children are often discriminated by airlines and airport support services. An eight year old disabled boy was abandoned without prebooked assistance at London Heathrow. The Civil Aviation Authority is investigating the incident.
In India, Jeeja Ghosh, director of advocacy and disability studies at the Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy, was thrown off a SpiceJet flight because of her condition. The airline has been issued a notice by India's Supreme Court.
What is truly disturbing is that only a handful of incidents are reported by the media. This means that every day, disabled passengers are humiliated and discriminated by airlines and airport authorities at the four corners of the planet.
While the Media can only expose cases of discrimination against the disabled, the airline industry, and lawmakers have the tools and means to tackle this problem, preventing it from growing further.
Lawmakers of all civilized countries must make sure to have appropriate legislation in place, and provide enforcement bodies with adequate and dissuasive enforcement tools.
Airlines must develop flight crews' training, to make sure that effective and humane handling procedures for disabled passengers are in use. The airline industry as a whole must accept that the fate of disabled passengers cannot simply rely on the good heart of individuals. Proper handling of PRMs has to become the center of flight crews training throughout the industry.