Travelers Balk At Airline's Support Person Requirement
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 21, 2004
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND--Three individuals with disabilities and two disability groups have filed complaints so far with the country's Human Rights Commission, over a new Air New Zealand policy requiring passengers using wheelchairs to be have their own support person accompany them when they are lifted off the planes at the end of each flight.
The disability organization CCS, formerly the New Zealand Crippled Children Society, and the Disabled Peoples Assembly, joined the three passengers in filing complaints against the airline.
The Commission is considering how it will resolve the issue, according to Monday's New Zealand Herald.
An Air NZ spokesperson said the airline was protecting the safety and health of its staff, who would still be required to cooperate with the passengers' support people.
CSS chief executive Viv Maidaborn accused Air NZ of paying too much attention to the occupational safety law while ignoring its obligations under the Human Rights Act.
CSS, which represents about 6,000 people with disabilities, offered to train airline staff on how to lift passengers into aircraft seats if that would help change the new policy.
Air NZ's Rosie Paul said the staff have gone through lifting workshops, but that the issue was not simply a matter of training. She said the airline was reviewing the machinery it uses to help passengers with disabilities to get on and off its aircraft.