Flight ban on disabled tourist investigated

Flight ban on disabled tourist investigated

Rights commission looking into 2019 complaint by Israeli using electric wheelchair

Passengers check in for flights at Chiang Mai Airport. (Bangkok Post File Photo)
Passengers check in for flights at Chiang Mai Airport. (Bangkok Post File Photo)

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken up a four-year-old case in which an airline refused boarding to an Israeli tourist using an electric wheelchair.

NHRC commissioner Wasan Paileeklee said the tourist had booked a flight from Chiang Mai to Suvarnabhumi airport on March 4, 2019, and had sent information regarding his wheelchair battery 48 hours before the flight.

The airline, which the NHRC did not name, denied his request when he got to Chiang Mai Airport, saying it did not have a policy that allowed passengers with electric wheelchairs to fly.

Most types of wheelchair batteries are considered dangerous goods by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which sets out rules that airlines and travellers must follow, especially related to storage if the battery must be removed.

At the airport, the Israeli reportedly spoke with staff for an hour and a half, explaining the wheelchair’s battery information during the check-in process before being informed that he was not allowed to fly.

The tourist then applied for a refund, which was allegedly denied by the airline.

He then reportedly attempted to board the plane, which resulted in an unspecified incident.

“This situation was considered a human rights violation, as it showed carelessness that the airline had for passengers’ safety,” said Mr Wasan.

What happened to the tourist is a possible violation of the rights of people with disabilities, as written in the constitution, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities Act, he added.

Mr Wasan said the NHRC would also look into the policies of Chiang Mai Airport related to services for people with disabilities. A report is expected in 90 days.

The NHRC will also ask the cabinet and the Transport Ministry to look into the matters related to the issue, Mr Wasan said.

The NHRC has already sent suggestions to the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand and Airports of Thailand focusing on disabled people’s rights to fly, he added.

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