Readers Respond: Ticket for Disabled travellers' guide should be free

2013-08-14 15:45

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The issue of allowing travellers who have a disability to fly on their own is policy-riddled and raises concern about safety in the event of an emergency situation. News24 Readers share their passionate opinions on the matter - with some saying, if a guide is needed, then surely so form of special discount or non-payment should be in place.

Here are some of the comments we received via Facebook, email and in the comments section of the stories.

Melanie Degenaar: I had okay service from kulula they provided the necessary support it was the acsa staff who threw the wheelchair off the plane and damaged it! I watched them do it ! Shocking even though it said fragile Traveling as a disabled person is always extra time consuming and it is your responsibility to make sure you know what the deal is with the airline hotel etc you choose! To avoid situations like this

Annette Hamann: Difficult both ways. He deserves to fly and the airline has to stick to their policies. But having a assistant does sound like a better option to me.

Tracey Chananie: Axelrod was advised that the airline required him to have an assistant - he refused, therefore he should be grateful Comair is re-imbursing his ticket.

Mathilda Britz: My sister is disabled, and travelled with Mango, had excellent service

Gert Conradie: Deaf and blind passenger! How must airline crew communicate with that? If all measures for a blind person (only blind) or a deaf person (only deaf) was in place you still have a problem with someone that's both like in this case! If you blind you can fly with your dog and crew can assist. If you death get an pre arranged assistant suited from the airline company (you book your ticket in advance!) If you both do the same as last mentioned. You can arrange this for kids flying alone so surely you know your disability so do your arrangements and booking before the time accordingly!

Angus Stembull: before anyone goes mental at the airline's behaviour, consider the following.. emergency or incident briefings (how done), what to do in the event of an emergency or catastrophe (how communicated?). The whole IATA system needs an overall if this is to be considered, not just the airline implicated, as the problem is worldwide. Either a reduction is ticket price for an assistant or aide or to have at least have one staff member aboard each flight be able to communicate using sign language in addition to the other skills they already have.
Look, to be fair I'm not sure someone with those disabilities should be travelling alone on a flight. No matter what the UN charter says, things can go very wrong on an aeroplane and ultimately the airline is responsible for the safety of its passengers. That being said, airlines should train staff to be able to assist and communicate with such passengers so that they can fly alone. Not sure if this is practical though, I don't know enough about it to offer an informed opinion.
SirDundas: Are you that dumb? "In case of emergency" is a major cop out! Don't people know that if plane crashes or anything, there would be people being immobile from the crash and STILL have to help people ANYWAY? The same can be said for people with disabilities.

DSBennie: It is the same reason that you cannot use earplugs during a flight, regulations state that you must be able to hear instructions from a flight attendant at any time, it is his responsibility to check well in advance what the policy of the airline is, if the plane is crashing, it puts general safety of the flight attendant and other passengers at risk if someone with disabilities needs to be approached separately for instructions to be given, it slows everything down.

Frankvankaapstad: Not true, there is a definite age restriction on unaccompanied minors. It wouldn't make sense allowing a 6 year old to fly by themselves, hence it isn't allowed.
And yes, it is highly unlikely that you need to evacuate a plane in an emergency, but it does happen from time to time and people need to be able to respond quickly and decisively.
What needs to happen though is that obese people should be refused permission to fly if they measure more than the size of the emergency exit on the wing. As insensitive as it may be and sound, they put other passengers at risk.
Ivan Tavla:
Most airlines allow for limited numbers of "PRM's" (persons of reduced mobility), as well as limited numbers of unaccompanied minors (children 5 to 12 years old) without requiring extra crew or escorts. The airlines are entitled to demand a medical certificate certifying the person is capable of travel. Any prm's or um's beyond these figures require escorts.  It is surprising Comair does not follow these internationally accepted procedures.

Roberto Castiglioni: Under European safety rule Father Axelrod would not be allowed to travel unaccompanied. As an advocate for access to air travel I do not find this restriction discriminatory, as it is solely based on the safety of the person and his fellow passengers. In the unlikely event of an emergency evacuation Father Axelrod would not be able to leave the aircraft alone, and cabin crew workload in those 90 seconds (that's the timeframe within which an aircraft must be fully evacuated) is so intense they would not be able to provide him, or any other passenger with special needs for that matter, assistance. We must use common sense and keep our heads cool before crying wolf. This is, in my humble opinion, one of those instances.

Dear Ivan, EASA sets requirements now contained into EU965/2012 with concern to safety. Ultimately, responsibility to determine said rules into its Ops Manual falls on the air carrier. I'm glad you mentioned Part 382, as you get to my favourite argument. 14 CFR § 382.29 You may require a passenger with a disability in one of the following categories to travel with a safety assistant as a condition of being provided air transportation, if you determine that a safety assistant is essential for safety:(4) A passenger who has both severe hearing and severe vision impairments, if the passenger cannot establish some means of communication with carrier personnel that is adequate both to permit transmission of the safety briefing, [ ] and to enable the passenger to assist in his or her own evacuation of the aircraft in the event of an emergency.

(c)(1) If you determine that a person meeting the criteria of paragraph (b)(2), (b)(3) or (b)(4) of this section must travel with a safety assistant, contrary to the individual's self-assessment that he or she is capable of traveling independently, you must not charge for the transportation of the safety assistant.

My point has always been that whereby an airline requires a travel companion, the latter should travel for free. This is clearly specified in 14 CFR Part 382, it is a mere recommendation in the Guidelines to 1107/2006. And that's where the cookie crumbles my friend. Yes safety requirements, no additional discriminatory costs

Ivan Tavla: Dear Roberto, I salute you sir on your distinguished position. However nowhere in your quotes above does it say "would not be allowed". They say "may refuse" and "may require". That is my whole point. The European regulations are not hard and fast. They (as with the Americans) encourage airlines to look at and assess each case, taking into account any specialist opinion. I would have expected Comair (operating a franchise of British Airways) to have have followed these recommendations and not applied hard and fast rules. European law is not hard and fast on the matter. They allow discretion, particularly on the part of the PRM (person of reduced mobility) to show that he/she would not be a risk.

(Sources: Official Journal of the European - Disabled person's rights when travelling by air, European Parliament and of the Council of 5 July 2006 concerning the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air)

Colin Azhle Smith: I am a paraplegic and was also denied flight on 1time airlines. I was told that i had to fly with an assistant which meant that i must fly a family member from Johannesburg to Cape Town who was going to fly back with me to Johannesburg. I found this ludicrous and i had no other option but to buy another plane ticket on another airline which cost me double. I reported the insident to QASA and Ari Sellis took up the issue with 1time airlines and they reviewed their policy and appologised citing that there was a misinterpretation of the Aviation Act.

Mark Barnard: With regards to your appeal for stories about travel difficulties for those with disabilities following the Comair articles of 12/08/2013, I'm afraid that whilst I'm hard of hearing, I can't provide any anecdotes on that score.  What I can, however, say, is that the articles have been a reminder as to why I've been putting a lot of effort, along with a small group of other dedicated people, to reform the South African Deaf Rugby Union - or Deafbok - squad. Given how sports-mad this country of ours is, I believe that rugby, with the potential for a Deaf competition alongside the World Cup in England in 2015, is a perfect avenue to raise awareness of Deaf culture and of people living with hearing loss (and, by extension, other forms of disability). Situations such as the one faced by Cyril Axelrod and Comair are largely the result of unwitting ignorance (on both sides, often!) rather than outright malice, and we'd like to make a difference in our society with regards to this. Visit their Facebook page to show your support.

Braam Jordaan: I fully agree with the comments made by Deaf Federation of South Africa (DeafSA) however I don't think Comair should not take the full blame. The South African government should also take the long overdue action. In March 2007 the United Nations opened a new human rights convention, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, for signature and ratification. South Africa was one of the first countries internationally to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN:CRPD), which it did on 30 November 2007. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognises the importance of sign language, the deaf community and culture and protects the rights of all Deaf people to use sign language. I applaud the South African government for taking its commitment to human rights seriously.  Read his full response here
Read more on:    comair  |  johannesburg  |  cape town  |  travel  |  travel south africa  |  travel international  |  flights

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