Girl, 12, refused plane ticket because she has Down's Syndrome

Discussion in 'British Airways | Executive Club' started by sobore, Jun 17, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. sobore
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    sobore Gold Member

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    http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/9091...plane_ticket_because_she_has_Down_s_Syndrome/

    A girl of 12 was refused a plane ticket because she had Down's syndrome.
    Heather Saunders phoned British Airways to book a flight for her daughter Alice from Gatwick to Glasgow.

    But she was left “shocked and furious” when a worker told her the company's policy was not to accept passengers with Down's travelling by themselves.
    Mrs Saunders, 49, said: “Alice is very independent and perfectly capable of going on her own.
    “I would not be letting her do it if I didn't think she would be okay.
    “When I asked why there was such a policy, the agent said it was because they had had problems in the past.

    “I asked what would happen if I had not told them Alice had Down's and they said she would have been turned away at the airport.
    “It is appalling. We have never faced that type of discrimination.”

    Alice goes to mainstream school and walks there and back by herself.
    She can read as well as an average 12-year-old and regularly goes away with Guide and church groups.
    Mrs Saunders, of Arundel Road, Angmering, near Littlehampton, has three older children, Becky, 22, Kate, 20 and Jack, 16.

    She said: “We have always expected that Alice would do what her siblings have done but with a bit of extra support.
    “They all flew out by themselves to see my sister in Scotland when they reached 12 and Alice wants to do the same.
    “We have now booked a different flight with Flybe instead and she is looking forward to it.”
    A BA spokeswoman said the firm would be giving all its customer service staff extra training on the issue.
     
  2. Grace
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    Grace Silver Member

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    What do they do about kids with Autism? based on some of the articles I've read on FT and MP they sound like they would be more of a liability than Downs Syndrome.
     
  3. Lufthansa Flyer
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    Lufthansa Flyer Gold Member

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    This is a tough spot to be in for both parents and airlines. Both can make compelling arguments for their case. I suspect the airline will act with an abundance of caution, because if something happens to her enroute, it would be the complete fault of the airline. No winners here.
     
  4. Tivoboy
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    While it surely sounds and seems VERY unfortunate and could be interpreted as discriminatory, I have to say I would most likely side with the airline in this type of case.

    There are so many LEVELS of down syndrome affected individuals. Some who are CLEARLY capable of living what we would consider relatively "normal" lives. There are unfortunately too MANY who cannot be expected to carry out what we would consider normal tasks and make reasonable decisions, etc.

    How should an airline judge? Who is allowed in this pool of special flyers and who isn't? I honestly don't know how they would set acceptible criteria. And so, with the effort to reduce or eliminate any possible emergency scenarios they choose to exclude the category as a whole.

    It makes me feel bad, for sure. But, it would make me feel even worse to see or hear of an episode where someone who really SHOULDN'T travel, did and all things simply went wrong. They couldn't handle something maybe. An FA couldn't handle a break with reality, terror outbreak, what have you. People in society don't really step in well when situations go wrong and then you would have someone possibly in a totally lost situation. That would really be unfortunate.
     
  5. milestoburn
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    milestoburn Gold Member

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    far too many assumptions made by BA. any child who can fly by themselves could have a multitude of issues, any extrodinary needs aside....BA has more explaining to do!! or more appropriately, allow the child to fly.
     
  6. Lufthansa Flyer
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    Keep in mind BA has the right to refuse anyone from boarding based on their discretion. Whether we agree with it or not, their terms and conditions (like any other airline) reserves them the right to decide who boards or not. IMO, BA is in a lose lose proposition. They lose in the court of public opinion for not letting her fly, and they would be vilified if they did allow her to board and something went wrong. Tough call.
     
  7. milestoburn
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    milestoburn Gold Member

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    not so fast. BA can not break the law in such decisions. last i checked, the UK has laws regarding discrimination.
     
  8. Lufthansa Flyer
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    Lufthansa Flyer Gold Member

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    I am sure they can cite numerous reasons that could make any passenger a high risk passenger for carriage. I'm not disagreeing, just being realistic about it. Every devloped nations has laws written re: discrimination, but the enforcement of those laws is whats suspect.
     
  9. Globaliser
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    I think the key to this story is here:-
    Or, in other words, "I say that she'd be fine to do this, therefore you must accept my word for it."

    Is it really too cynical to think that people as self-centred as that would probably be the first to complain if something went wrong, blaming the airline for accepting a booking for a Down's child to travel on their own, or for not deploying two dozen staff to supervise this one passenger - without any extra cost of course, because that would be discrimination too?
     
  10. milestoburn
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    milestoburn Gold Member

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    from what i know about the UK laws, realistic expectations would be for enforcement of the laws that protect discrimination of the type BA could have potentially engaged in. parents with children of extrodinary needs do not lay down without a strong fight....i can at least guarantee that.

    that said, it is a moot point given BA clearly admited they f'd up royally when they stated “We will carry any child over five years old as an unaccompanied minor provided they can go to the toilet unassisted, feed themselves, and behave in a socially acceptable manner,” she told the Daily Mail. This includes Down Syndrome passengers.

    The spokesperson added that the airline “apologises unreservedly” to the Saunders and has offered them two return tickets.
     
  11. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    So did they have this policy that the agent cited and the publicity caused them to revise/reconsider, or did the agent make the mistake?
     
  12. milestoburn
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    milestoburn Gold Member

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    no such policy as i read. policy is a general one that is based on substantive measures and not label's. the last criteria is the same one that results in many hollywood types being arrested from time to time on BA so it seems pretty fair.
     
  13. Tivoboy
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    I think one of the points is, that policies for better or worse are put together in order to catch the WORST CASE scenario so the outliers don't slip through the cracks. There is no way an airline could feasibly implement a policy that required some form of subjective review for a passenger with disabilities to allow them to purchase a ticket or not.

    It is sort of like the policy (of course it isn't a law in this case) that no pregnant woman should ever drink ANY alcohol while pregnant. Now, we KNOW that a small amount of alcohol at some times during a pregnancy is going to do nothing to the unborn child. But, to capture the RISK cases, the policy is NO ALCOHOL. I've had friends denied being server alcohol in restaurants because they were pregnant before. Isn't it their choice? Shouldn't they be allowed to have ONE drink if they choose to?

    In order to capture the most at risk, sometimes a policy will appear much too strict for those for whom is might not need to be applied
     
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