Ms Zhu Lanying, 26, is the latest disabled traveller victim of discrimination at the hands of one of the various local Chinese airlines, Chengdu Airlines.
On 8th October, Ms Lanying was about to board a Chengdu Airlines flight at Kunming Airport. As she approached the boarding gate, the airline staff told her that the flight could not accept wheelchair travellers.
The paraplegic woman alleges that her wheelchair capsized as airport staff moved her away from the gate. As a result of the fall, she sustained minor injuries to the head and upper limbs.
Ms Lanying's lawyer told the Chinese newspaper Global Times his client was preparing to sue Chengdu Airlines. The lawsuit against Chengdu Airlines will be on the basis of discrimination and violation of the rights of disabled travellers.
In a recently published report released by a Shenzhen group promoting the rights of the disabled, the Equity and Justice Initiative; it appears Chinese airlines often discriminate against disabled travellers.
According to the report, 22 of the 24 Chinese airlines, including the two largest (Air China and China Eastern), have severe and discretionary rules limiting the carriage of disabled passengers.
Chinese airlines use the following three criteria to discriminate against people with reduced mobility and other disabilities. 1) Passenger failed to notify the airline of their impairment at least 72 hours prior to the departure of the flight. 2) Passengers failure to provide a medical certificate stating their fitness to fly. 3) The airline discretionary power to deny boarding if personnel believe the disabled traveller could cause inconvenience to other passengers.
According to the report, 13 claim they have the right to refuse the right to board for any disabled passengers who may negatively affect others on board. Mr Guo Bin, one of the authors of the report, lamented that current legal framework allowing Chinese airlines to discriminate against the disabled thanks to rules deriving from an out-dated regulation of the Chinese Civil Aviation Authority. Mr Bin added that the CAAC rules are in violation of laws protecting the rights of the disabled.
Unlike in the U.K., where disabled passengers cannot sue airlines based on breach of EU Regulation 1107/2006 because the Department for Transport has yet to transfer enforcement powers of 1007/2006 to civil procedure, Chinese disabled passengers appear to be better protected by the law.
In December 2010, wheelchair bound Zheng Weining and Liu Haijun had to sign a waiver that exempted their carrier any liabilities of damage before boarding a Shenzhen Airlines flight at the Beijing International Airport. The disabled passengers sued Shenzhen Airlines and the court awarded settlement in March 2011. Shenzhen Airlines now promises to provide on-board wheelchairs on all its flights.
Reduced Mobility Rights believes that the rights of disabled passengers are honoured only if violators can be held accountable. Chengdu Airlines joins Australian carrier Jetstar on the "Boycott" list of airlines known to violate the rights of people with reduced mobility. Help us spread the word and encourage the boycott of these airlines until they will take responsibility and stop discriminating against disabled passengers.