Disability Council wants meeting with Air Namibia

19 May 2017 | Transport

The Disability Council of Namibia will seek a meeting with Air Namibia after a wheelchair-bound passenger could not board one of the airline's flights.

The acting CEO of the Disability Council, Meliherius Haukambe, told Namibian Sun that he did not want to comment on the situation before meeting with Air Namibia.

He said he would request a meeting with Air Namibia today.

The airline, in a statement on Wednesday, said its domestic routes are serviced by the Embraer RJ 135 (ERJ) with a seat capacity of 37 passengers.

However, the ERJ aircraft does not make provision for wheelchair-bound passengers, due to its narrow size, design and weight restrictions.

The aircraft's staircase allows only one passenger at a time to board, hence the requirement that every passenger boarding this aircraft is required to climb the staircase without assistance.

The machinery used to lift disabled passengers onto the aircraft is only compatible with larger aircraft, such as the A319-100 and A330-100, used on regional and international routes respectively.

According to Air Namibia due to the size of the aircraft, it is only operated with one safety officer on board. In case of emergencies all passengers are required to be able to aid themselves during evacuation, in case the safety officer is rendered incapacitated.

“It is our future aspirations to operate bigger aircraft on our domestic routes, which can accommodate passengers on wheelchairs.

“Unfortunately, these aircraft cannot operate at some of our airports, due to limited equipment and infrastructure, domestic airports cannot accommodate bigger aircraft at the moment.”

Air Namibia on Wednesday also issued an apology to the mother of a 16-year old girl, whom the airline staff at Walvis Bay airport had refused to board last Thursday.

The apology came after the Walvis Bay resident Anastasia Helao expressed anger and grief in a newspaper report on Wednesday over the mistreatment of her wheelchair-bound daughter, Victoria Martin.

Helao said her daughter missed a doctor's appointment in Windhoek as they had to travel by road due to her disability, sustained in a car accident in 2015.

She said she had paid around N$5 000 for two air tickets last Wednesday, only to be turned away at the check-in point on Thursday morning when they were about to board the plane.

According to her the airport manager said they did not allow people in wheelchairs to get onto planes.

The manager told her that they had made a mistake in allowing her to book for the flight in the first place.

ELLANIE SMIT

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