Disabled teen in aircraft seat spat
A father is demanding a personal apology from an airline pilot who he accuses of insulting his Down’s syndrome daughter.
Bank director Rafi Ahmed has complained to the CEO of Air Arabia after he, his wife Saleha and daughter Hana, 15, were told to move seats despite paying extra to sit next to one of the plane’s exit doors on a flight from Sharjah to Goa.
They say the incident culminated with the member of the flight deck being rude about their daughter’s disability.
Saleha also said she asked a member of the cabin crew why they had to move and claims she was told: “Look at your daughter... you still want an explanation? Isn’t it obvious?”
The family say they went through check-in, passport control and the gate at the airport before boarding a bus and then taking their allocated seats on board the plane.
They were then quizzed by staff and asked to move. The airline says the family refused and one of the pilots was called from the flight deck to deal with the situation.
Rafi said: “We felt belittled, embarrassed and enraged with anger and humiliation by someone who has very little knowledge about our daughter and her condition. He implied my daughter had no right to be on the flight.”
He said he wanted the man to personally apologise to Hana. However, the airline said staff had behaved with “complete professionalism” and had only been following safety rules.
In a statement, Air Arabia said: “As per international airline safety regulations, disabled people and people with reduced mobility are not permitted to occupy seats which allow direct access to emergency exits. This rule is made clear at the time of booking and is included in the terms and conditions of the ticket.
“Upon recognising that Mr Ahmed’s daughter was occupying an exit row seat, our cabin crew followed standard procedure and requested that Mr Ahmed and his family switch to alternate seats. Following Mr Ahmed’s refusal, and with the possibility of the flight being delayed or the passengers being offloaded, the First Officer was called to make a final attempt to resolve the situation.”
The firm also denied that the staff were rude. The statement added: “We are confident that Air Arabia’s crew acted with complete professionalism. We regret any distress experienced by Mr Ahmed’s daughter, but Air Arabia cannot compromise when it comes to safety.”