Airline rebuked over walking stick rule
A Thammasat University academic was left bewildered and angry after Nok Air staff rigidly enforced a rule that regards his walking stick as a weapon.
- Published: 25/03/2013 at 07:27 PM
- Newspaper section: topstories
Chaiwat Satha-Anand of Thammasat University's political science faculty, wrote an open letter to the airline airing his "surprise and dissatisfaction" about his treatment by an air crew on a flight from Hat Yai to Don Mueang.
The letter, written directly to Nok Air chief executive Patee Sarasin, was posted on prasong.com, a website of a veteran journalist, on Sunday.
Thammasat University lecturer Chaiwat Satha-Anand (File photo by Kitja Apichonrojarek)
Mr Chaiwat caught Nok Air flight DD7113 on March 15 during which he used a walking stick because of a bad knee. He put it in the pocket in front of his seat, but later was asked to "cooperate" by putting the stick in an overhead compartment because "[it] could be used as a weapon''.
The renowned peace advocate questioned this rational and asked the budget airline whether he was treated that way because of "the stick" or because of "the stick user", implying unequal treatment because he is a Muslim.
If the latter was the case, he said, then the incident was more troubling for Nok Air as it raised a question of prejudice, which was unacceptable for the airlne or any other business.
"I saw no point in the reason that keeping a walking stick in the overhead compartment will reduce any danger from it and its owner," he said in the letter. The best way was to keep it away from the passenger altogether if the airline believed it was dangerous, he added.
Mr Chaiwat said he had encountered this problem with other airlines, including United, Austrian Airlines and Thai Airways International. He criticised Nok Air for paying no attention to passengers or to the disabled who needed help when travelling.
Mr Patee on Monday defended the air crew's treatment of the academic, saying the staff had enforced an airline rule on keeping walking sticks in the overhead compartment.
Nok Air was strict about the rule which is used to varying degrees by airlines around the world, he said.
Nok Air chief exceutive Patee Sarasin (File photo by Phrakrit Juntawong)
Some airlines do not allow any walking stick to be taken on board a flight.
Mr Patee rejected any suggestion that Nok Air was prejudiced in its treatment of passengers. It took no account of individuals, nationalities or religions, and the walking stick rule had even applied to his late uncle, Pol Gen Pao Sarasin, who was asked to do the same as the lecturer when he took a flight on the no-frills airline.
"It is international practice," he explained.
About the author
- Writer: Amornrat Mahitthirook
- Position: Reporter