Freedom of Movement for All?

Freedom of Movement for All?

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.

Viviane Sorée

Photo: Viviane Sorée

1 Comment

Eugene Callan

June 25, 2015, 6:16 pm


That was a terrible experience and disgraceful behaviour on behalf of the airline.

I travelled from Dublin to Madrid with Aer Lingus a couple of years ago. When we arrived in Madrid, my wheelchair was not brought to the door of the aircraft. Instead it was taken with the luggage into the terminal building. When the assistance arrived to assist me to get off the aircraft, they had an old chair of their own which was completely unsuitable for me. I said that I could not get off the aircraft until my own chair arrived at the door. The security supervisor in Madrid airport refused to allow my wheelchair to leave the terminal building and come back to the door of the aircraft. He said the reason for this was because the wheelchair had passed through a one-way security zone.

A stand-off ensued and I stayed in my seat for an hour and a half. The aeroplane captain asked me if he could board the passengers due to return to Dublin from Madrid. I agreed to this. Finally the supervisor relented and allowed my wheelchair to be returned to the door of the aircraft. The one and a half hour delay meant that my taxi left the airport without picking me up. It also meant that I missed my connecting train to Cordoba. Very late at night I had to try to find a hotel in Madrid and get there. I also had to book a new train ticket the following morning.



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