Tiger Airways deaf to discrimination claims: Herald Sun – April 11,2008

Via Scott Rains. A little outdated but relevant nonetheless.

Tiger Airways deaf to discrimination claims
Article from: Herald Sun

Jane Metlikovec with AAP

April 11, 2008 01:41pm

THE advent of low-cost airlines and zealous interpretation of safety regulations has led to discrimination against people with disabilities, experts say.

A group of deaf people from Melbourne has launched a discrimination case against Tiger Airways after the budget carrier insisted they travel with a carer last month.

But federal disability discrimination commissioner Graeme Innes says the problem isn’t limited to Tiger.

“There have been endemic problems in airlines over the past few years where people with disabilities have been refused carriage because of their disability,” Mr Innes told Sky News.

“The introduction of low-cost airlines has been one of the reasons.”

Mr Innes said they often applied unnecessarily strenuous or zealous interpretations of airline safety regulations and their staff weren’t trained well enough.

“What you get sometimes are individual decisions which are outside airline policies,” he said.

In 2006, Virgin Blue was forced to back down over its policy requiring wheelchair-bound passengers to be accompanied by a carer. It’s currently fighting a federal court case over alleged discrimination, Mr Innes said.

Last week, Mr Innes co-chaired a forum with the parliamentary secretary for disabilities services, Bill Shorten, to address the issue of how disabled people are treated by airlines.

The forum included the main airlines, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and Government representatives.

Mr Shorten said the Government was concerned that discrimination was taking place “in the name of safety”.

“But the reality is most people with impairment can understand (safety) instructions and fly,” Mr Shorten told Sky News.

Mr Shorten said Tiger was wrong to insist deaf passengers travelled with a carer.

“People who are deaf can still see and all emergency safety briefings have pictorial representations,” he said.

“Just because people are deaf doesn’t mean that they’re stupid.”

He said Qantas had the best policy: “If you can’t self-medicate and self-see then you need a carer”.

But Mr Shorten said individual flight attendants were not to blame.

Better training and awareness about disability was needed, he said.

“The airline industry needs to reach out to people with disability.”

Public servant Adrian Doyle, 38, said he was left humiliated in Tasmania last month when he, his wife Julie, and two friends, Robyn and Steve May, who are all in their 30s, were told they could board a Tiger Airways plane only if they organised – and bought a seat – for a sign language translator.

A spokesman for Tiger Airways, Matt Hobbs, told the Herald Sun the policy was in place to protect the safety of all passengers in case of emergency.

Mr Hobbs said Tiger was not looking at revising its policy to let fully capable deaf adults travel without an aide.

“The carer issue is a standard practice, and it is there to protect the safety of all passengers, and without it, the safety of passengers could be jeopardised,” he said.

But Mr Hobbs rang back five minutes later saying the Tiger policy was actually to allow deaf people to travel without a carer.

Tiger would now address Mr Doyle and his travel companions.

“We are happy to apologise to the people involved for the inconvenience and embarrassment they might have experienced,” Mr Hobbs said.

Mr Doyle, of Nunawading, has filed the complaint against Tiger with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission under the Disability Discrimination Act.

The group was eventually permitted to take their seats on the March 4 flight from Launceston to Melbourne, after a stewardess told them they would not be allowed to travel alone again.

“The stewardess wrote on a piece of paper to me that we all require a carer on a plane because of our ‘deafness’, which sure floored me,” Mr Doyle said.

“My friends had steam coming out of their ears, and my wife was dumbfounded.

“I then took the paper and wrote that they had insulted us by saying that we require a carer, since we have all travelled a lot, and never encountered any problems with our disabilities.”

Mr Doyle double-checked the Tiger policy over the phone when he returned home, and was again told that he would be required to have a carer next time.

“I am shocked and stunned that Tiger allow themselves to discriminate against deaf people,” he said.

Anti-discrimination consultant Julie Phillips said the original Tiger policy appeared to be out of the dark ages.

“Deaf people fly every day – they do not need carers. It’s ridiculous,” Ms Phillips said.

Virgin Blue and Jetstar both allow deaf passengers to travel without carers.

Airline Slammed on Deaf Policy: The Associated Press – April 11, 2008

Airline Slammed on Deaf Policy

By ROD McGUIRK – 20 hours ago

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Ludwig van Beethoven would not be allowed to fly alone on a Tiger Airways flight if he were alive today because of the Singapore-owned airline’s purported policy on deaf passengers, a government minister said Friday.

Bill Shorten used the example of Beethoven — who famously continued composing until his death in 1827 despite losing his hearing — in condemning the treatment of deaf passengers by the Australian subsidiary of Singapore-based budget carrier Tiger Airways.

The policy bars deaf passengers from flying unless accompanied by a fare-paying adult care provider, a Tiger Airways reservations agent who said she goes by only one name, Jinky, told The Associated Press.

But airline spokesman Matt Hobbs denied that the airline had such a policy, and said he was investigating why air crews and call center staff in the Philippines were telling passengers otherwise.

Shorten, Australia’s parliamentary secretary for disabilities and children’s services, said he telephoned the airline Friday to tell them that barring deaf people from flying alone was wrong.

“Under this, Beethoven would never have been able to catch a plane” on his own, Shorten told Sky Television. “Just because people are deaf doesn’t mean that they’re stupid.”

A group of four deaf adults has lodged a complaint with the Australian government’s anti-discrimination watchdog agency after a representative of Tiger Airways Australia told them last month that they could not make an interstate flight without a care provider who could hear, the Herald Sun newspaper reported Friday.

The group was eventually permitted to take their seats on the March 4 flight but a flight attendant told them they would not be allowed to fly alone again on the airline, the newspaper said.

Hobbs, Tiger Airways Australia’s head of corporate communications, said the cabin manager had written the four a note saying: “In future, so you know, you’ll need to travel with a carer for safety reasons.”

“We’re clarifying with all staff that deaf people do not require a carer to travel with them,” Hobbs said, adding that he could not explain the widespread misunderstanding within his company.

“We are apologetic and very sorry that the people involved in this feel in any way that they’ve been discriminated against or upset by this in any way,” he said.

Hobbs said his company’s sister airline, Tiger Airways Singapore, had changed its policy that once required deaf passengers to be accompanied by a care provider.

The Australian subsidiary of Singapore-based Tiger Aviation entered the Australian domestic aviation market last November. Its Australian competitors allow deaf passengers to fly alone.

Airlines warned not to bar disabled: The Australian – December 11, 2007

Airlines warned not to bar disabled

Steve Creedy, Aviation writer | December 11, 2007

LOW-COST carriers have been warned not to attempt to cut costs by discriminating against the disabled after two airlines recently sought exemptions from laws designed to grant handicapped travellers equal access to transport.

Singapore-backed Tiger Airways has applied to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission for an exemption to the Disability Act so it cantemporarily refuse to carry some passengers with limited mobility.

It says it needs to do this because it does not have the equipment to get wheelchair-bound people safely on to its Airbus A320 jets.

Disability groups are also fighting a move by Australia’s biggest independent regional carrier, Regional Express (Rex), to introduce restrictions they say will make flying harder for disabled people in the bush.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre is pursuing court action against Virgin Blue to head off moves to require some people with disabilities to buy a second ticket for a carer if they want to travel.

“It’s fine for low-cost or budget airlines to reduce services,” human rights commissioner Graeme Innes said yesterday. “But not carrying passengers with disabilities can’t be part of those reductions and to do so is against the law.

“As commissioner, I intend to ensure wherever I can that airlines meet their obligations to all passengers, not just passengers without disabilities.”

Tiger is offering affected passengers a full refund and says the problem stems from the inability of its third-party ground handler to obtain special hydraulic devices capable of lifting wheelchairs on to planes. It did not expect the lifters to be available at all destinations until the end of February.

Tiger’s application comes as a report, due to be released this week by the PIAC, says an analysis of the experiences of 110 airline passengers demonstrates a systemic failure of legislation introduced in 2002 to set standards for disabled access to public transport.

The report finds recent development and application of airline policy, and changes to baggage handling, have made disabled access more difficult, particularly for people with motorised or bigger wheelchairs.

“Some passengers who travelled independently for many years now find themselves barred from travel or facing the imposition of unreasonable conditions,” it says.