Airline staff refused to allow a wheelchair user to board a flight at Hong Kong International Airport because she was travelling alone, sparking calls from a lawmaker for the carrier to make its instructions clearer.
Shen Chengqing, 22, was supposed to take a Hong Kong Airlines flight to Tianjin in northeastern China at 8.40pm on Friday.
However, after she arrived at the airport for the 3½-hour flight, Shen said airline staff refused to check her in as she was not able to walk and did not have a travel companion.
“I felt very anxious and angry at the time. I don’t understand why this could happen in Hong Kong,” Shen said.
In an audio recording Shen sent to the Post, an employee of the city’s third-largest airline can be heard saying she had to be offloaded as she was unable to walk.
“Because of this reason, we refused to let her board the plane alone,” the female employee told Shen’s friend, who was with her at the airport.
Shen said she had earlier told Hong Kong Airlines she used a wheelchair, and that it had a responsibility to explain its policy better to passengers.
According to the airline’s website, passengers are allowed to check in their wheelchairs and will be provided with substitutes on board.
While flight attendants can help wheelchair users move to and from their seats, the airline said employees would not help with personal care including using the toilet and taking medication, due to safety concerns.
“For these needs, we recommend you travel with a personal care attendant,” the website reads.
But Shen was dissatisfied with the airline’s reasoning.
“If there are safety concerns, there should be better facilities to ensure my safety, instead of not allowing me on a plane,” she said.
Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho said the airline’s online instructions were unclear compared with those of other airlines.
“People might not know what you mean, using words like recommend,” Tam said.
Rival carrier Cathay Pacific Airways requires some passengers to travel with a companion.
“It is a requirement that you travel with a safety assistant if you are unable to physically assist in your own evacuation,” its website said.
Read full originally published story at scmp.com