Airline Operators denied me boarding because of my condition – Ezewuzie

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… Demand Apology From IBOM Air For Discriminating Against PWDs

The Chairman and CEO, Anambra State Disabilitiy Rights Commission, Barrister Chukwuka Bertrand Ezewuzie today 02 May 2024, has called on the Minister of Aviation, Barr. Festus Keyamo to direct all Nigerian Airline Regulators to implement and abide by the rules of IATA which provides the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) to have access to Air travel and to eliminate obstacles and barriers in transportation for persons with disabilities, PWDs. 

Barr. Ezewuzie made this call at a press conference in Abuja organised on behalf of 35 millions of Nigerians living with disabilities who have fell victims of discriminatory policies and practices by some Nigerian Airline operators in Nigeria. 

He noted that Air travel should be accessible to all persons with disabilities passengers and therefore all stakeholders should work together to eliminate barriers to travel, therefore all Airline operators are to respect the Federal Law, the provisions of the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities, the resolution of IATA which is an umbrella of the organisation of all the Airlines around the world.

According to Barr. Ezewuzie, the airline commitment to accessible air transport was reaffirmed at the 2019 IATA Annual General Meeting, when IATA members approved a Resolution on Passengers with Disabilities.

He said as IATA supports the application of the provisions of UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPU) which requires requires its parties to take appropriate measures so that persons with disabilities have access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communication including information technologies and systems, and other facilities and services open or provided to the public both in urban and rural areas.

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He explained that to promote consistent and coordinated airline policy and to ensure high-quality service provision, IATA calls on ICAO and its member states to develop comprehensive strategic planning that includes appropriate coordination mechanisms between states and provides a foundation for sustainable and transformative change towards accessibility in all pillars of aviation.

Sharing his ordeal, Barr. Ezewuzie recall how he was denied boarding only for being Blind on 1st May,2021 at Nnamdi Azikiwe international Airport, Abuja by IBOM Airline Supervisor on duty, Mr Etido Smith with Flight ticket number: ETKT000 2300593238/02 during a return trip from Abuja to Enugu. 

He said he is not the only victim of the IBOM Airline discriminatory  policy. On Saturday May 8, 2021, Mr Chidi Olujie, a Deaf Man booked on flight ticket ETKT000 2300615319/01 with Booking reference number AB7VMD from Abuja to Uyo, Akwa Ibom state was denied boarding because is Deaf.

“On the 1st Day of May 2021 (Saturday), I was booked on an IBOM Airline flight with booking reference number AB6SSQ and flight ticket number ETKT000 2300593238/01 From Abuja to Enugu. I arrived Abuja airport 2 hours before my scheduled flight to Enugu. I was denied boarding for no other reason, other than I am blind. I demanded to speak with the supervisor and the station manager on duty to lodge a complaint. 

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“I was told the station manager on duty was not available and Mrs. Etido Smith, who introduced herself as the supervisor in duty informed me that IBOM Airline has a policy of not allowing persons with Disability board a flight unless and until such a person with Disability can hire and pay for a travel companion or an accompanying passenger to travel. 

“I informed the said supervisor that I have traveled alone to and through over 21 countries about 50 airports around the world. I also informed her that I am a frequent flyer of several airlines both domestic and international. I also informed her that the decision to deny me boarding was Discriminatory and in violation of federal law and an infringement on my constitutional rights. 

“She responded that she will loose her job if she allowed me to board the flight. I further informed her that I was in Abuja on a United Nations conference and that I had arrived Abuja few days back on Ibom airline. She then stated that it was a mistake and that person who boarded me few days earlier is currently being disciplined for allowing me to travel “while blind.” I was left in Abuja airport, abandoned, with no provision and no refunds for the fully paid flight.

He therefore appealed to the minister of Avaition to intervene on behalf of millions of Nigerians living with disabilities.

“I pray you to prevail on Ibom Air to Cease and desist from discriminatory policies and practices, which violate section 42 of the 1999 constitution and contravene section 1 of the 2019 federal Act, fully and adequately compensate me and all other victims of their discriminatory policies and practices, and finally Issue a written an unqualified apology to 35 millions Nigerians citizens with disabilities.”he said

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It would be recall that on IATA resolution on passengers with disabilites, Barr. Ezewuzie said in February 2023, IATA published new guidance material. Key elements which include: Better processes for booking and information exchange, including the use of Special Service Request (SSR) and Passenger Name Requirement (PNR) codes to give advance information on the specifications of mobility aid and a recommendation to create an electronic mobility aid tag, fixed to the mobility aid and containing technical information which will help airlines and ground handlers transport the aid safely. 

“Advice to airlines on developing a communications toolkit for engaging with passengers with disabilities, including a clearly signposted and accessible website area. Best practices for loading, collection and return of mobility aids. 

A recommendation for dedicated specialized ramp personnel to be trained and deployed to handle mobility aids Guidance for how to properly resolve instances where mobility aids are damaged. Revised and enhanced training of ground handlers and airline staff. tandards and Certification for Trained Service Dogs.

IATA supports the right of individuals with disabilities who have a legitimate need to travel with a trained and certified assistance dog, among others. 

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