The Jakarta Post
An Indonesian woman with physical disabilities demands international airliner Etihad Airways to publicly apologize to all Indonesian disabled community groups after she was kicked off a flight for not being accompanied by an aide.
Dwi Ariyani, 36, who is also an activist for the rights of the disabled, reported her traveling experience to the Indonesian Ombudsman on Tuesday. The Ombudsman is a state agency responsible for monitoring services provided by the government, state-owned or private companies.
Pratiwi Febry from Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta), who represents Dwi said that the initial apology sent out by Etihad was not sufficient as the airline had discriminated Dwi as a person with a physical disability.
"Etihad must also apologize to community groups of disabled people in Indonesia as Dwi had planned to go to Geneva to attend training on the UN [United Nations] convention on the rights of people with disabilities," Pratiwi said in a hearing with the Ombudsman on Tuesday.
The incident, which took place on April 3 when she was on board a Geneva-bound flight from Jakarta, lead to the cancellation of Dwi's trip.
"She had planned to share the training module [from the UN convention] with disabled community groups in Indonesia, which could not happen because of the cancellation,” Pratiwi said.
Dwi also demanded Etihad commit to improving its service for disabled passengers in its apology.
Etihad had previously apologized and admitted its failure to facilitate a passenger in a wheelchair through a private email and phone call to Dwi. The airline had also offered a consolation flight and emphasized that it regularly accommodated disabled passengers without problems.
After the events, Dwi set up an online petition at www.change.org titled "Etihad Airways, don’t' discriminate people with disabilities", which has garnered more than 45,000 supports as of Tuesday.
She also noted the incident is ironic as the House of Representatives has just passed the 2016 People with Disabilities bill into law, protecting the basic rights of disabled people within society.
As previously reported, Dwi was asked to leave the aircraft by the flight crew because she did not have anyone to help her evacuate in case of an emergency. The crew had said they were acting in accordance with the airline’s rules, which Dwi later found untrue in Etihad’s flight regulations.
Meanwhile, Ombudsman commissioner Alvin Lie said that he would summon the air transportation director general of the Transportation Ministry to discuss the matter.
In the hearing, Pratiwi expressed her client's disappointment over the ministry's slow response following the request.
Furthermore, the Ombudsman will also summon air transportation operator PT Angkasa Pura I and II, the Indonesian National Air Carriers Association (INACA), ground service management of PT Gapura Angkasa and other companies to discuss the provision of better service for the disabled.
The Ombudsman also urged the government to deliberate the Government Regulation following the passing of the Law for Disabled People to implement a more binding regulation.
Discrimination from domestic airlines
Similarly, several community groups of disabled peoples also reported their complaints regarding the poor service from domestic airlines to the Ombudsman.
A representative of AksesNet, a business model set up by disabled people, Aulia Amin, said that people in wheel-chairs often received discrimination from domestic airlines, such as the forced signing of a “letter of sickness” to allow them on board.
Such a letter states the airline will take responsibility for the disabled in case of an emergency during the flight.
Flight crews are also found to be likely unqualified to treat disabled people, especially in wheelchairs when some domestic planes do not have air bridges.
“The crew even asked me ‘how do I carry you up the stairs’? I then taught the crew how to carry me properly,” Aulia said.
The Indonesian Blind Union (Pertuni) secretary, Rina Prasarani, said she also often felt badly treated on domestic airlines. This is a stark contrast from her traveling experience with international airlines, who follow standard operating procedures in handling disabled passengers, such as offering in-flight assistance.
“Some domestic airlines do not have standards in treating the disabled. Some ground staff also cannot conceptualize how to service people with disabilities. We don’t want to be favored but we want to be treated equally,” Rina said (rin).
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