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News: Dragonair removed blind passenger for sitting in aisle seat

News: Dragonair removed blind passenger for sitting in aisle seat

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Old Oct 6, 08, 4:24 am
  #16  
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Originally Posted by LHR/MEL/Europe FF View Post
The second argument from me is that the flyer chose to make a scene and put the cabin crew in an extremely embarrassing situation. This is uncool . Make a point yes, but not in this way. Make the point at the check-in counter rather than involve the crew. Would it have made the flyer happy to see the crew members punished for breaking the rules? Remember, this is not a US airline, the crew are not protected by US laws. So, one guy gets his way, the crew member is sacked. Nice deal.
With all certainty if Rabby hadn't made a fuss and involved the crew, his protest would have remained undocumented, Katja wouldn't have learned about it and posted about it here, and I would have also remained unaware about a policy that I find appalling and am in complete disagreement with.

I don't see how the Check-In staff would have been less embarrassed than the flight attendants should Rabby have chosen to make his stand at the Check In counter instead. By Rabby exercising the same right as any other passenger in swapping his seat once onboard it was only then clear how ingrained this unique policy actually was.

The AF policy you described above is not something you will find anybody here arguing with. It is for the benefit of all passengers that someone who is able-bodied who the crew can communicate with (or who can read for themselves) be sat in a row giving direct access to an unusual door they may be required to open. In the case of AF, that direct communication is French.

The Dragonair policy differs from this a great deal. Although there is no proof that a blind person will have greater difficulty locating the same open exit everyone else is heading for, an arbitrary decision has been made that effectively gives at least two random passengers 'a greater right to life' than that of any passenger with a disability.

I very much object to my own needs and safety requirements being given priority over another passenger. I don't believe my right to live is greater than that of anybody else.

Whether you agree with this or not, Dragonair's policy does come down to this; who should be given precedence in an emergency evacuation. And that's not just uncool It's despicable, the kind of thinking that was fostered by those who proposed eugenics and other policies that advocated the promotion of 'the survival of the fittest'.

This is very much a civil rights case, particularly as the assumption that a blind person might hinder anyone else is just that, an assumption. Just like all the other assumptions that have been made in the past about the abilities of those of different races, religions or genders.

Last edited by LapLap; Oct 6, 08 at 1:19 pm
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Old Oct 10, 08, 4:21 pm
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Last edited by LHR/MEL/Europe FF; Oct 10, 08 at 4:27 pm
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Old Oct 12, 08, 3:04 pm
  #18  
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Originally Posted by LapLap View Post
The Dragonair policy differs from this a great deal. Although there is no proof that a blind person will have greater difficulty locating the same open exit everyone else is heading for, an arbitrary decision has been made that effectively gives at least two random passengers 'a greater right to life' than that of any passenger with a disability.

I very much object to my own needs and safety requirements being given priority over another passenger. I don't believe my right to live is greater than that of anybody else.
Laplap, below is an exerpt from FAR Part 121. While the text is specifically in relation to who can and can't sit at an exit, the emotive argument about a visually impaired person being 'of less value' is not what anyone remotely believes or supports. There are plenty of things, as shown by this list, that a visually impaired person in the same position as Mr Rabby cannot do in an emergency evacuation. They will need to rely on the assistance of visually able passengers.

There is no 'proof' that a visually impaired person will have greater difficulty in locating an exit, what happens when they actually get there? They jump out of the aisle seat and happen to get to an exit first... how many of the following can a visually impaired person do? (I have underlined the ones that might cause difficulty)
(d) Each certificate holder shall include on passenger information cards, presented in the language in which briefings and oral commands are given by the crew, at each exit seat affected by this section, information that, in the event of an emergency in which a crewmember is not available to assist, a passenger occupying an exit seat may use if called upon to perform the following functions:
(1) Locate the emergency exit;
(2) Recognize the emergency exit opening mechanism;
(3) Comprehend the instructions for operating the emergency exit;
(4) Operate the emergency exit;
(5) Assess whether opening the emergency exit will increase the hazards to which passengers may be exposed;
(6) Follow oral directions and hand signals given by a crewmember;
(7) Stow or secure the emergency exit door so that it will not impede use of the exit;
(8) Assess the condition of an escape slide, activate the slide, and stabilize the slide after deployment to assist others in getting off the slide;
(9) Pass expeditiously through the emergency exit; and
(10) Assess, select, and follow a safe path away from the emergency exit.
Is it not actually safer for the person needing assistance to be in a position where that assistance can be offered? Should they not follow the viually able person sitting in the aisle?

As for the 'right' of a person to swap seats, I think most airlines require you to remain in you ticketed seat until after the departure of the aircraft.

You also state that the Dragonair policy gives the visually impaired person a lesser right than two others? On A330 aircraft this doesn't apply as it is 2+4+2 seating. So there is only one person between the window and the aisle. And the person sitting in the aisle would be asked by the cabin crew to assist the visually impaired passenger in the event of an emergency.

Regards

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Old Oct 12, 08, 5:40 pm
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Aren't you talking about something different from what LapLap said? I don't think she was referring to exit rows. I don't think anyone thinks a blind, or otherwise disabled person, should sit in an exit row.
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Old Oct 12, 08, 6:04 pm
  #20  
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Originally Posted by LHR/MEL/Europe FF View Post
Laplap, below is an exerpt from FAR Part 121.
As I stated in my last post, I doubt you will find any argument (and certainly not from me) about discrimination regarding Exit Row seats.

I do not speak any of the Chinese dialects, therefore I do not consider myself a candidate for exit row seating on a Hong Kong based airline.

However, I now have an invisible disability Dragonair would be completely oblivious to. My back problems would make it impossible for me to "Stow or secure the emergency exit door so that it will not impede use of the exit" if I were the first to arrive at the emergency door.

Dragonair, and every other airline, should, according to what you've written, make exactly the same enquiries to every passenger allocated an aisle seat that they do to those positioned on an exit row seat. They don't.

I'm curious to learn your explanation for why there are no policies to prevent children or non Chinese/English speakers from sitting in aisle seats.

It's almost commendable that you're prepared to give this airline the benefit of the doubt. I am not able to and feel strongly enough about this matter to prepare my own official protest.

Originally Posted by LHR/MEL/Europe FF View Post
You also state that the Dragonair policy gives the visually impaired person a lesser right than two others? On A330 aircraft this doesn't apply as it is 2+4+2 seating.
The aircraft Rami was hauled off of was not an A330, it had 3+3 seating, my comments were based solely on this particular incidence.
http://benetech.blogspot.com/2008/09...off-plane.html

Originally Posted by LHR/MEL/Europe FF View Post
As for the 'right' of a person to swap seats, I think most airlines require you to remain in you ticketed seat until after the departure of the aircraft.
Perhaps you can find a case (even anecdotal) where this has been enforced (excluding instances of uneligible passengers taking exit row seats) Personally, I've seen lots of passengers swap their seats and never seen resistance to this from the crew.
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Old Oct 13, 08, 4:01 am
  #21  
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Laplap

I was absolutely using the exit row criteria as an example of how a visually impaired passenger is at a very real disadvantage when it comes to not only operating the exit door itself (ie if they are sitting in an exit row), but no matter where they are sitting on the plane. There are just so many things they cannot do. They cannot see the lights on the floor to find an overwing exit, they cannot assess conditions outside, they cannot lead other passengers in need of assistance to the exit or help with finding a suitable path away from the aircraft after the evacuation.

It is much easier for a sighted person to be sitting in an aisle seat, and to grab the hand of the visually impaired person and say 'follow me' than it is for the sighted person to climb over the viusally impaired passenger and then lead the visually imparied person to the exit.

Viually impaired passengers have (seriously) argued that they should have the right to sit in exit rows, even calling evidence from pilots that a visually impared passenger would be better equipped to sit at an exit because they would still be able to find the exit in thick smoke (ie not having to 'see'). I found that out via a google search after the court case was mentioned in the beneblog link.

I do see from closer inspection that it is 3+3 seating. Apologies for that. It still doesn't change my opinion of the above, that it is better for a visually able person to be sitting to the outside (closer to the aisle) than an impaired person.

On the 'do not change seats', that is pretty common in Australia, at least with Qantas and jetstar, passengers are often told to remain in their allocated seats until after takeoff), either for weight and balance, or for special meals, or to be able to find pax. It is also common in the US on regional jets (weight and balance).

As for 'giving the airline the benefit of the doubt' I am thinking of the crew. The passenger said he didn't agree with the policy and wanted an explanation. He was told it was standard procedure. The other passengers felt it was not 'standard procedure' because they were allowed to do it differently on other airlines.

As I have said earlier, different airlines interperet the rules slightly differently. Dragonair policy was to sit visually impaired on a window. It is not for the passenger to question that and demand an explanation from the crew. Take it up with management yes, but not the poor crew.

Regards

lme ff

Last edited by LHR/MEL/Europe FF; Oct 13, 08 at 4:20 am
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Old Oct 13, 08, 2:58 pm
  #22  
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Originally Posted by LHR/MEL/Europe FF View Post
I was absolutely using the exit row criteria as an example of how a visually impaired passenger is at a very real disadvantage when it comes to not only operating the exit door itself (ie if they are sitting in an exit row),
And I absolutely was not. Everything I've said here revolves around my belief that the airline has misunderstood (willfully or otherwise) the guidelines regarding exit rows and applied them in an irrelevant and discriminatory manner. It truly is a straw man argument.

Originally Posted by LHR/MEL/Europe FF View Post
. It is not for the passenger to question that and demand an explanation from the crew. Take it up with management yes, but not the poor crew.
We're never going to see eye to eye on this (excuse the pun).
I really am in the midst of taking this further with one of my governments and have received correspondence from the Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department (so far I've seen nothing to justify the aisle seat rule). If the incident hadn't occurred, I wouldn't be doing this.

Neither you nor I can know for sure if any of the the crew or police who removed Rabby from the place privately supported his stand, after all, the photographer/blogger was not prevented from taking photographs. You are merely assuming that they were embarrassed. For all we know there were crew members who were just as disgusted by their airline's policies as I am.

Originally Posted by LHR/MEL/Europe FF View Post
On the 'do not change seats', that is pretty common in Australia, at least with Qantas and jetstar, passengers are often told to remain in their allocated seats until after takeoff), either for weight and balance, or for special meals, or to be able to find pax. It is also common in the US on regional jets (weight and balance).
Best of luck with finding any evidence of a group of 3 friends/family/business acquaintances travelling in the same row being told they can't swap their seats.

Last edited by LapLap; Oct 13, 08 at 3:03 pm
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Old Oct 14, 08, 3:28 am
  #23  
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Hi Laplap

Just out of interest I did quite a bit of searching on the Civil Aviation of HK website and I can't find the specific safety section either... however the exact words on the Dragonair (and Cathay) website appear to have come from a European Directive (see below).

There is an interesting transcript (from 2003) about the Monarch Airlines policy in relation to seating visually impaired passengers away from the aisle. That link is here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/youandyo...20030703.shtml

As supporting evidence that the text seems to come from the EU, here is a link to the corresponding page on the Ryanair website which goes a bit further to also restrict passengers of size from sitting at an exit row (etc etc) or hindering an evacuation (same wording as Dragonair).

That link to Ryanair is here:

http://www.ryanair.com/site/EN/faqs....t=ecregulation

However, checking the British Airways website there appears to be no restriction for visually impared passengers at all (except emergency exits).

I'll keep looking for more information.

Regards

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Old Oct 15, 08, 4:15 pm
  #24  
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Originally Posted by LHR/MEL/Europe FF View Post
Hi Laplap

Just out of interest I did quite a bit of searching on the Civil Aviation of HK website and I can't find the specific safety section either... however the exact words on the Dragonair (and Cathay) website appear to have come from a European Directive (see below).

There is an interesting transcript (from 2003) about the Monarch Airlines policy in relation to seating visually impaired passengers away from the aisle. That link is here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/youandyo...20030703.shtml

As supporting evidence that the text seems to come from the EU, here is a link to the corresponding page on the Ryanair website which goes a bit further to also restrict passengers of size from sitting at an exit row (etc etc) or hindering an evacuation (same wording as Dragonair).

That link to Ryanair is here:

http://www.ryanair.com/site/EN/faqs....t=ecregulation

However, checking the British Airways website there appears to be no restriction for visually impared passengers at all (except emergency exits).

I'll keep looking for more information.

Regards

lme ff
I wouldn't use Ryanair to make any point as they have a habit of flouting rules and regulaions.
eg. contravening point 4 in these EU rules: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/smartapi/cg...06&nu_doc=1107 by charging wheelchair users for wheelchair services

Going back to the transcript with quotes from Monarch from 2003, which at the time was pretty much a charter airline, the conclusion from Will Bee of the Disability Rights Commission is telling:
"Currently transport services are exempt from the Disability Discrimination Act and this allows the sort of blanket approaches that we've seen here and which so discriminate against disabled people. The government has consulted on removing that exemption and has promised to introduce a bill to give disabled people comprehensive civil rights later this year. We are pressing them to do so as soon as possible. Everyday disabled people are turned away from buses, from taxis, disadvantaged on trains or treated the way we've heard today on airlines, treated as second class citizens and we need the government to implement that bill so that by all means allocate disabled people to appropriate seats that do not impede emergency exits - as the guidance stresses - but treat them on the basis of their individual capacity, don't approach it in terms of blanket approaches which discriminate against disabled people and treat them as second class citizens."

I'm not aware if that specific bill mentioned was passed or not. I do know that the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 was amended since the transcript and does cover transport, but I am not able to isolate any paragraphs that would make the very suspect interpretations of the guidelines "passengers should not be seated in location where they could obstruct emergency exits, impede crew in their duties, obstruct access to emergency equipment or hinder aircraft evacuation" that makes certain airlines force blind passengers into window seats illegal. I am not a lawyer.

The current laws outlined in the pdf document "Access to air travel for disabled people: code of practice (1 Mb)" in this web page:
http://www.dft.gov.uk/transportforyo...ationshipping/
and specifically on pages 27 and 71 are more comprehensive.
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Old Oct 16, 08, 1:54 am
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Originally Posted by LapLap View Post
The current laws outlined in the pdf document "Access to air travel for disabled people: code of practice (1 Mb)" in this web page:
http://www.dft.gov.uk/transportforyo...ationshipping/
and specifically on pages 27 and 71 are more comprehensive.
Page 71 specifically leaves it open that a carrier may determine not just an emergency exit row seat, but also any other seat as being unsuitable for people with specific disabilities.

My bolding:
If a disabled passenger has been allocated to an emergency row seat, or to one which the operator has identified as unsuitable for people with specific disabilities then under current aviation regulations the
crew would be right to ask them to move to another seat.

However, it would be unlawful for cabin crew to ask a disabled person to move from a seat that has been allocated to them because of their disability in order to give that seat to a non-disabled passenger.
It does not limit unsuitable seats to emergency row seats, and leaves it to the carrier to determine. i wonder if there is further clarification anywhere?

Regards

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Old Oct 17, 08, 12:06 pm
  #26  
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Here are the responses from www.cad.gov.hk

"Thank you for your email. The Civil Aviation Department has issued a Flight Operations Notice to all local operators in April 2008 reminding them to take necessary steps to facilitate persons with disabilities. Persons with disability should NOT be refused air transport on the grounds of their disability or lack of mobility, except ONLY for reasons which are justified on the grounds of safety.

Passengers with reduced mobility shall be seated where they will not obstruct emergency exits, impede the crew in their duties, obstruct access to emergency equipment or hinder aircraft evacuation. "

When I made further enquiries about the aisle seat rule I got this response:

"We have not issued any other guidelines on the seating arrangement for the blind passengers. The guidelines given in the Flight Operations Notice (04/2008) do not prohibit blind passengers from taking up aisle seats.

Public Relations Officer
Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department"

I doubt many of us are surprised by this response. I would be happy to forward this email to anyone considering travelling on Dragonair.
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Old Oct 17, 08, 4:31 pm
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Originally Posted by LapLap View Post
Passengers with reduced mobility shall be seated where they will not obstruct emergency exits, impede the crew in their duties, obstruct access to emergency equipment or hinder aircraft evacuation. "

When I made further enquiries about the aisle seat rule I got this response:

"We have not issued any other guidelines on the seating arrangement for the blind passengers. The guidelines given in the Flight Operations Notice (04/2008) do not prohibit blind passengers from taking up aisle seats.
Good news to get a response!

However, although the rules say a blind passenger is not prohibited from sitting in an aisle seat, doesn't say the carrier was wrong in making that determination on the rules.

Dragonair is using an interpretation of the rule and we would need to cross reference with any relevant anti-discrimination legislation to see if they acted illeagally.

Regards

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Old Oct 17, 08, 6:34 pm
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Originally Posted by LHR/MEL/Europe FF View Post
Good news to get a response!

However, although the rules say a blind passenger is not prohibited from sitting in an aisle seat, doesn't say the carrier was wrong in making that determination on the rules.

Dragonair is using an interpretation of the rule and we would need to cross reference with any relevant anti-discrimination legislation to see if they acted illeagally.
According to the man who documented the incident:
"The pilot said it was a regulation of the local aviation regulator" The website published Dragonair policy makes it clear that they are using the Hong Kong local aviation regulator.
That particular local aviation regulator, with very little prodding, is willing to explain to anyone who asks that those rules do not prohibit blind passengers from taking up aisle seats. So yes, the carrier was wrong.

Perhaps Dragonair never thought to ask this same regulator about the unfair interpretation they have chosen to apply to these rules and saw nothing wrong with their own prejudices colouring and warping their understanding of the regulator's safety guidelines. As Rabby forced them to confront the issue by delaying a plane, perhaps incurring some penalties and costs as a result, Dragonair might possibly look afresh at their policies and, who knows? The penny might drop that they are severely infringing on the civil rights of a proportion of their passengers for no justifiable reason.

Just in case they don't, I am taking this matter up with the Japanese authorities so they are at least aware of Dragonair's invisible policies. If Dragonair proceed with their plans to fly passengers to the UK (or Spain) I will take the matter up with these governments also.


Perhaps you can send a letter of support to the Dragonair crew on Rabby's flight or a note to commend them to their managers as you've made it clear how strongly you feel about their predicament.

Last edited by LapLap; Oct 17, 08 at 6:39 pm
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Old Oct 18, 08, 4:24 pm
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Originally Posted by LapLap View Post
According to the man who documented the incident:
"The pilot said it was a regulation of the local aviation regulator" The website published Dragonair policy makes it clear that they are using the Hong Kong local aviation regulator.
That particular local aviation regulator, with very little prodding, is willing to explain to anyone who asks that those rules do not prohibit blind passengers from taking up aisle seats. So yes, the carrier was wrong.
Laplap

I accept that in your opinion, you think the carrier was wrong. I do not believe they were. It is entirely possible that the pilot was trying to say that the requirement to sit at the window was 'in accordance with' the regulations (which they quite clearly are) rather than meaning they were a direct implementation of the regulations. We have to allow for his english.

As soon as there is someone sitting inboard of a visually impaired passenger on the aisle (that is, the sighted passenger is at the window or centre seat and would have to climb over the visually iompaired passenger) then the visually impaired passenger is at very real risk of hindering the evacuation of those other passengers inside of them.

There are two issues here. Firstly, the visually impaired passenger may have real difficulty in even locating an exit (especially overwing exits indicated by lights).

Secondly, it would likely speed the evacuation if a sighted person was situated on the aisle and could pull the visually impaired passenger along behind them in the event of an emergency, rather than have to climb over them first.

Why do people automatically assume that requiring the visually impaired passenger to sit in the window is discrimination? Why not assume this could actually be safer for the visually impaired person and for the person that will have to assist them to the exit?

Regards

lme ff

Last edited by LHR/MEL/Europe FF; Oct 18, 08 at 4:45 pm
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Old Oct 19, 08, 8:20 am
  #30  
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Avraham (Rami) Rabby is in regular contact with the American Foundation for the Blind www.afb.org

You are welcome to ask them to communicate to him on your behalf that you believe that Dragonair were only acting in his best interests.

I can neither be convinced nor swayed by your reasoning, perhaps Rami himself can now that he has had a few weeks to mull things over.
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