SINGAPORE: A 23-year-old woman from Australia called out Singapore Airlines for discriminating against her not just on her flight to Europe but one her flight back as well.
In January, Ms Isabella Beale, a student, had been sitting in the emergency exit row in a flight from Australia when a crew member told her to move from her seat. And on the way back, despite asking the staff upon checking in if she could sit in the emergency exit row, she was again told to move.
Ms Beale, who has no forearm, is a congenital amputee who does not require any assistance on flights.
According to Singapore Airlines’ booking process, people who are pregnant, under the age of 15, traveling with babies or who need “special assistance” are not allowed to sit in the in emergency exit rows.
And while Ms Beale says she understands that airlines have policies, what she appears to take exception to is how she was treated by Singapore Airlines staff, based on a report in ABC News Australia.
She said, ”I understand that there might be policy around this, I’m not saying I need you to sit me in emergency, I’m saying I need you to treat me like a human being.”
Ms Beale claimed that on the flight to Europe, “All of a sudden an air hostess approaches me and, in quite a loud tone and quite, like frantic and rushed, she just says, ‘Get out, get out of that seat now, you need to get up’.”
She then switched seats with her partner, who was in the same row. But the staff told her she needed to sit in the row behind.
“I had a little cry just because it was such an affronting thing to happen … it was very humiliating and upsetting,” Ms Beale is quoted by ABC News as saying.
The way back was even worse, because, despite determining that she would be allowed to sit in the exit row, she was still asked to move in a way she found humiliating.
“She spoke to my partner and she spoke to my partner’s mother, it felt like there was an assumption that I couldn’t understand,” she said.
“The manager gestured at my missing limb and just said ‘Well, the problem’s obvious, the problem’s obvious’, and continued repeatedly to say that in front of an entire flight of people.
I was really upset and hurt and felt like I was being vilified for my disability in front of all of these people, and they were all in a rush and all raising their voices and yelling.”
Singapore Airlines has issued an apology to Ms Beale, and her family has been refunded the additional fee for the seats in the exit row.
“Singapore Airlines takes allegations of discrimination seriously and will not tolerate any form of discrimination or harassment,” the airline said.
“Following Ms Beale’s complaint following her flight, Singapore Airlines undertook a detailed investigation, which found cabin crew operating the flight had determined that Ms Beale did not meet the safety and regulatory requirements to be seated in the emergency exit row.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) requires passengers with a disability or passengers with restricted mobility to not be seated at the emergency exit. The requirements to be seated in the emergency exit row are available on our website and must be reviewed and agreed to at the time of booking.”
Furthermore, the employee who dealt with the incident has received further customer training after Ms Beale lodged a complaint.
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