BA in disability scandal
Why did BA see fit to refuse a flight to a child with Down’s Syndrome? What does this say about our society?
Highly independent twelve-year-old Alice Saunders from West Sussex was set to visit her Aunt in Glasgow on a BA flight from Gatwick as an unaccompanied minor. Alice attends mainstream school and goes away regularly with youth groups. Visiting her aunt should not have been an issue.
But her mother, Heather, was left stunned when she was told by a BA customer service representative that they would not allow Alice to fly alone because of her disability. The excuse? “we’ve had problems before.”
When Heather asked what would have happened if she had not mentioned her daughter’s disability whilst booking, she was told that her daughter would still be turned away at the ticket gates because staff would have seen she had Down’s Syndrome.
BA has since apologised, insisting that it was not their policy to “refuse solo flyers with Down’s Syndrome”.
What kind of society to we live in when our knee-jerk reaction is to refuse a service to someone because of their disability? What kind of society is it that automatically assumes that disabled people are incapable of independent travel?
It may be all well and good to assert that there is no policy to refuse people with certain disabilities, but that becomes meaningless when the no-policy-policy is not filtered through to the frontline.
If there is the assumption among staff, where did it come from? The agent mentioned there had been ‘problems before’. Was the decision to refuse the service based on the agent’s own prejudice or their managers, or their manager’s manager?
I’d have thought that “caring” (I use the term loosely) for customers with disabilities would have been right up there in the front of the training manual. Whether it’s a training issue or misplaced attitude (and I’m being kind) it should be addressed and addressed now.