Flight Escorts?

We’ve been quite astounded – and confused – by the arrogance and ineptitude of a particular local airline towards passengers who are mobility impaired.

The company has made a ruling which says:

if you cannot walk unaided, you MUST take with you on your journey an able-bodied helper.

The mind boggles – both at the decision, and its implications.

The airline says its ruling is safety based. If there is an emergency where flight passengers must move to escape hatches, for instance, the helper must be there to assist, and to avoid having the person who cannot walk unaided, getting in the way of others.

Let’s look at this aspect first: The safety operational standards of airlines are governed globally and locally by some rules. Our rules say each airline must take its own decision as to whether one passenger can get in the way of, or impede the safety of others. Although none of the other airlines share the view, this airline believes those of us who cannot walk will become a problem if unaccompanied.

This begs some questions:

Does this mean a person prone to epileptic fits who walked onto the plane, will not become a mobility problem in the shock of an emergency situation?

Does it mean that someone who has been drinking heavily before and during the flight, will not also be a mobility liability when the crunch comes?

There are many other massive negative financial and practical implications of such a decision. Business people who are mobility impaired to the point of not being able to walk unaided, will have to (at least) double their airfare. Both ways. When they get to their destination, they will probably have to increase their accommodation, eating costs, some of their ground transport and even entertainment costs. Meeting venues could be impacted… there are many other things.

We don’t see much humour in the situation, but to be trite, one imagines it might create job opportunities – imagine a kiosk at each of our larger airports (Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town) with signs saying “You can’t walk? – Rent an Escort for Your Flight”. Pay the fee, buy the ticket, and get on board… at the other end of the journey, the escort goes back to that kiosk to be on standby for a return flight…

QASA has been in discussion on general mobility issues with ACSA (which owns and administrates all airports) and with all local airlines, who (with this one very notable exception) are most helpful and practical in addressing the challenges.

We will continue facing down this illogical ruling of the one airline, until we see the decision reversed. We are sure readers of Rolling Inspiration – both those who cannot walk unaided, and those who can – agree this kind of narrowed and illogical thinking cannot be tolerated, or sustained.

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