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Thursday, August 13, 2020

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Ethiopian Airlines under fire for not flying wheelchair user

A Kenyan wheelchair user has hit out at Ethiopian Airlines, saying he was abandoned by airport staff who refused to help him board a flight leaving the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, to the US.

In a series of tweets and Facebook posts, author and disability rights campaigner Harun Hassan said he was treated “insensitively”, with one member of staff impolitely telling him: “Please, we don’t have a provision for a disabled person who is travelling alone.”

Mr Hassan said that his ticket clearly indicated that he was a wheelchair user who was travelling on his own.

“They left me alone and stranded without any options,” he tweeted.

“This clearly goes against the policies and guidelines of Kenya Airport Authority and other international disability travelling laws that this airline subscribes to,” he wrote.

About 10 hours after he had posted his comments, the airline reached out to him, apologised and offered him a business class flight.

But he said that Ethiopian Airlines wanted him to pull down his Twitter and Facebook posts about the incident.

He declined to do so saying he would “rather fly economy with respect and dignity” than in the “knee-jerk inspired comfort” of business class.

Mr Hassan said he had opted to travel on another airline to go to Washington DC.

The campaigner said this was the first time he had posted publicly about the “injustices” he often faced.

“Literally everyday I do encounter challenges and discrimination – some more painful than this.

“However, this post and this ‘hard’ stance is about millions of others who are treated differently because their ‘appearance’ is different from us.”

He said he had acted to create a more inclusive society: “An inclusive world is a better world for all.”

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