AirAsia deboarded and then re-boarded a visually- and hearing-impaired disability rights activist at Pune airport on Friday. According to the airline, the passenger, Zamir Dhale, was incapable of travelling alone. However, the activist held his ground, maintaining that he could travel and even said that he has the relevant documents to prove it.
Zamir Dhale, the founder of the Society for Empowerment of the Deaf and Blind, in response to a media house's query, said that the irony of the incident wasn't lost on him - that he was being discriminated against while on his way to fight for the rights of the differently-abled. Highlighting a sad truth, he said that the treatment wasn't new and had made him feel helpless. He put forth, however, that he would not be stymied in his efforts because of this and would continue his fight.
According to sources, Zamir Dhale (44) was travelling to Delhi from Pune to catch a flight to Geneva where he was to address a meeting of disability experts that was organized by the United Nations. While speaking to a media house, Dhale said that he was able to board the flight after making several calls to the airline. He stated that he reached Delhi alright but was delayed by two hours in Pune during which time he faced harassment and indignity, all while he was carrying requisite documents validating that he could travel by himself.
While Dhale was making several calls to the airline, another disability rights activist Satendra Singh also raised the issue with them on his behalf. After a wait of almost two hours, AirAsia re-accommodated him on his flight and let him travel alone. They said, "We sincerely regret the inconvenience and 2-hour delay in arriving at his destination caused by us re-accommodating Mr. Dhale on our next flight with necessary precautions.”
AirAsia's stated policy as per its website is that it prefers to have an able-bodied person accompany a differently-abled person on the flight. However, if the disabled person is able to do certain things on their own, then they are allowed to travel solo. This issue was earlier taken up by another disability rights activist Satendra Singh. However, he stated in a tweet that they still have not changed their policy. He further stated that AirAsia just assumes that people with hearing and listening abilities are non-self reliant.
@AirAsiaIndian “assumes” that all persons who are #Deafblind are non-self-reliant & therefore require an attendant to travel. Zamir has a 4 am flight tomorrow to Genava to participate in the UN meeting of disability experts from Sept 1-4. #Deafblindness 2/n— Satendra Singh, MD (@drsitu) August 30, 2019