Blind World Magazine

Blind people's association may sue Air Asia.

The Jakarta Post, Indonesia.
Monday, March 20, 2006

By Abdul Khalik.

The Indonesian Association for the Blind is preparing evidence to sue Kuala Lumpur-based airline company Air Asia, after one of the association's members was initially forbidden to fly out of Jakarta on the carrier last week.

Chairman of the association, Didi Tarsidi, said that they had appointed a team of lawyers to study the case, and would file the lawsuit within a month.

"As we believe that Air Asia has violated the basic rights of one of our members via discrimination, we will sue them. We hope we can file the suit early next month," he told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

Didi said that his organization insisted on proceeding with the lawsuit because they believed that the airline company had violated several regulations, including this country's Constitution, that guarantees the rights of disabled people.

A 1997 law on people with disabilities gives them full rights and opportunities in all aspects of life, while the International Convention on Civil Aviation states that people with disabilities, including those who are blind, should be given special assistance at no extra charge.

Budget airline Air Asia rejected on March 8 a blind man, identified as M. Achyar, as he was about to board an Air Asia flight to Kuala Lumpur, although the man had a ticket. The airline staff insisted that there were internal regulations prohibiting blind people from traveling alone.

Achyar, who works for a non-governmental organization in Jakarta, the Mitra Netra Foundation for the blind, was invited to a preparatory meeting for an international conference on access to technology for the visually impaired in Kuala Lumpur.

Having previously arranged for a friend to pick him up at the airport when he was scheduled to arrive, Achyar demanded that Air Asia's ground staff allow him to board the 3 p.m. flight to Kuala Lumpur.

But it was to no avail as the crew insisted there were no exceptions to the airline's rule on disabled people traveling alone.

Feeling discriminated against, Achyar called his office and asked for help. Despite a lengthy argument, however, the airline employees stuck to their regulation. Finally, the plane took off without him.

Only after Achyar threatened to sue the airline for Rp 9 billion (US$983,000) did they let him fly on the 6 p.m. flight.

When contacted on late Sunday the president director of the budget airline Sendjaja Widjaja said he had not heard about the association's plan.

Sendjaja declined to give further comments as saying,"I did not know about the incidence."

Earlier, the company's publicity and promotion executive Jovita Sadikin said the incident was a misunderstanding as her company never intended to discriminate people with disabilities.

End of article.

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