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Regional Airline Says Passengers With Disabilities Cannot Fly Alone
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 20, 2006

BANGKOK, THAILAND--Thai AirAsia, the largest low-cost carrier in the region, announced Wednesday that it would not allow passengers who are deaf, blind, or have other disabilities to fly without their own assistants, The Star reported.

The airline's CEO, Tassapon Bijleveld, said the company was forced to enact the new policy because, as a budget carrier, it does not have enough ground staff to help such passengers.

Thailand's Association for the Blind said AirAsia discriminated against blind passengers after it refused to allow Frederick Schroeder to board a flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last Saturday. Schroeder, a former U.S. official during the Clinton administration, was told he could not board because he was traveling alone.

Monthien Bunton, head of the association, said: "This is a very basic service that an airline has to provide for blind passengers."

"This is discrimination, and it should not have happened."

Tassapon argued that his company does not discriminate against people with disabilities.

"But we are not a full-service airline and cannot take blind, deaf and other disabled passengers onto our flights if they are unaccompanied," he said.

Airlines that have instituted similar policies in many other countries have been forced to reverse their positions following pressure from disability advocates and lawmakers.

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