29 03 2008

Sky News has reported the second incident within the past nine months of a commercial airline refusing access based upon a disability. U. S. Airways refused access to commercial air travel in June 2007 to Andy Gates, a person with Dystonia.

‘It Was Just Humiliating And Degrading’

By Sky News

Thursday, March 27, 2008

http://uk.news.yahoo.com/skynews/20080327/tbs-it-was-just-humiliating-and-degradin-327c223.html

A wheelchair user has accused Air France of “blatant discrimination” after they refused to allow her to board her flight, reportedly telling her she posed a health and safety risk.

Michelle Daley, who works on the Government advisory committee Equality 2025, was travelling to Belfast on business.

But as stewards were wheeling her across the tarmac towards the plane in a specially-designed aircraft chair, Miss Daley told Sky News Online she was stopped by the pilot who asked her if she was able to walk.

“I said ‘no’ then the airline staff, stewards and the pilot were all having a conversation over me as I sat in this aircraft chair,” Miss Daley said.

“You are already disempowered by being in this chair, it’s very difficult to move at all.

“They told me: ‘We can’t allow you on this flight because you are a health and safety risk’.”

She added: “It was just humiliating and degrading. Just blatant discrimination.”

A week earlier, Miss Daley said she spoke directly to the booking agent and was assured the airline had been made aware of her access requirements.

And when she arrived at the Air France check-in desk at London City airport, the staff arranged for her to move into a specially-designed seat, in which she could be transferred directly onto the aircraft.

“Why put me in that chair? Why go so far?” the 36-year-old asked.

“They must have known at the time I booked my ticket and then when I checked in at the desk.

“I’m advising the Government on disability equality and ironically I was prevented from doing my job properly. That type of discrimination is just not on.”

Describing the airline’s treatment as “outrageous”, she added: “Disabled people experience discrimination on a daily basis but I have rarely experienced blatant discrimination of this type.”

A spokeswoman for Air France told Sky News Online that their flights between London City Airport and Belfast were operated by Scot Airways.

She added: “Scot Airways uses a 38 seater Dornier aircraft on this route which means that due to the aircraft configuration, the company can not carry lift-on lift-off passengers in wheelchairs.

“Having investigated the matter with its call centre, Air France is certain that correct proceedure was followed regarding the booking.

“Air France is now investigating the matter directly with the travel agent who made the booking. Air France is sorry to hear of any embarrassment and inconvenience caused to Mrs Daly as a result of her experience.”

Eventually Miss Daley made it to Belfast on a BMI flight from Heathrow.

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