Viviane Sorée, Chair of Onafhankelijk Leven, an ENIL member organisation in Belgium, experienced horrible discrimination by an airline company. Sadly enough, this is not a single case. This has to stop! ENIL calls on the European institutions to act and to make freedom of movement and consumer rights a reality for all.
Below you can read the detailed story of Viviane, written by herself:
My Flight Experience
For the fourth time I went for professional reasons to Bulgaria. I was really looking forward to see the people whom I’ve met during my previous visits to Bulgaria. However, it turned out completely different.
It started when Jaak, a colleague of mine booked the flight tickets online. After a long time and several attempts we received the confirmation the assistance request was accepted. But this was not the end of the agony. Jetair requested information about the batteries of my electronic wheelchair (dangerous goods). We mailed my battery certificate three times to Jetair. After receiving for the fourth time the same request from again a different person we strongly urged them to make up their minds. Shortly afterwards, we received an okay from Jetair in reply to our e-mail with the requested information about the batteries of my wheelchair. The next day we received for the second time a no-response mail with the same confirmation.
The 23rd of May, departure day. Check in at the counter of Jetair gives no problem. To the man who labels my wheelchair with the flight data I say laughingly it never went so smoothly. Checking the luggage also gives no problems. Finally we are going well in advance to gate 5. The boarding time is approaching but no plane is in sight. This is very suspicious. Suddenly we hear a voice (not via the calling system) loudly saying we urgently have to go to gate 9. They reprimand us because we didn’t look at the display. But how could we? There were no displays near to gate 5.
I ride with my wheelchair just to the door of the aircraft. There I’m told my electronic wheelchair is not on the list. Jaak argues he has received the approval from Jetair. He is allowed to see the pilot in his cockpit in order to explain this. The pilot comes to us and says if Jaak can show him the email from Jetair within fifteen minutes everything is okay. Jaak gets his laptop and tries to log into the server of our work without success. Thanks to the help of the cargo personnel he finally can log in. He shows the mail to the pilot who responds by saying we received a mail from a department that is not authorized to send confirmations concerning dangerous goods. In other words, he does not accept the mail. But how could we have known this?! The cargo personnel say there are several wheelchairs in the cargo space of the aircraft including an electronic wheelchair just the same as mine. The pilot quickly says he hadn’t received the authorization from Jetair to transport a second electronic wheelchair and therefor he must follow the rules. I still could board but without my wheelchair, which I declined.
But the best is yet to come. When Jaak boarded yesterday to return home he overheard a conversation between the chief steward and another staff member. They were still waiting for me, my personal assistant and electronic wheelchair. Jake asked astonished if they knew nothing of the incident in Brussels airport. They knew nothing of a kind and above all they received in contrast to Brussels airport the authorization to transport my electronic wheelchair.
Only now we know that the authorization to transport my electronic wheelchair was on the label attached to my wheelchair. Apparently there is no communication between the different services of Brussels airport. Is there no coordination?
Who is to blame for this fiasco? This whole situation is inconsistent with the European regulation of free movement of people, goods and services. Where are my consumer rights?
I know I’m not alone. There are many more disabled people who had a similar experience. Enough is enough. We really have to do something about it.
Photo: Viviane Sorée