Ethiopian Airlines stands accused of discrimination by a Kenyan disability rights activist. The airliner, on response to The Reporter, refused to directly confirm or deny the accusations; but it expressed regret about the incident and said that “it will continue to reach out to the customer and make amends”.
Harun Maalim Hassan, a paraplegic, was said to be travelling to the United States to attend a conference and help launch his book, ‘Behind The Wheels’, one that details his lived experience as a victim of a car crash.
“Today I was denied to travel to the USA by @flyethiopian bcoz of my wheelchair,” he wrote on Twitter, attracting a vast reaction from hundreds of people. “They left me alone & stranded with no options. Unfortunately, @flyethiopianis bound by the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) that makes it illegal for airlines to discriminate against passengers because of their disability. ACAA applies to all flights TO, FROM, or WITHIN the United States. And they are also bound by Kenyan laws”.
He also said that the airline had offered him an apology and an opportunity for him to fly in its business class, on conditions, he takes down his tweets. He refused, instead choosing to fly with KLM, turning down the offer made by Ethiopian Airlines.
“Y’day 5pm @flyethiopian contacted me 4 apologies & offered opportunity to fly in Business Class. However, they requested I takedown my Twitter & FB posts. I declined. I rather fly Economy with respect than a knee jerk inspired ‘comfort’. I’m flying 2day on a different airline.”
His tweet has been re-tweeted hundreds of times, forcing the airline to react.
The airline reacted belatedly, two days after the incident took place, acknowledging there was a “miscommunication” and that he was booked on the Addis Ababa bound flight.
“Mr. Harun Maalim Hassan booked on ET309/27Aug19, Nairobi-Addis, was not accepted due to miscommunication. We’ve been working on the recovery & hope Mr. Hassan will accept our apologies & offer. We assure the encounter does not define our standard of service,” the airline wrote on its social media page.
Asrat Begashaw, the Manager of Public Relations and Corporate Communications at Ethiopian Airlines said that the airline continues to reach out to Mr. Harun. However, he was not able to confirm if he was asked to take down his social media posts as Mr. Harun alleges.
“The airline reached out to him to try to get his side of the story and make amends, but he has refused to engage with us. Rest assured, we tried our best to work with him, offer him all options that was in our disposal but that was not to be,” Asrat said adding, “However, I cannot confirm if he was asked to take down his social media posts. The communication between him and the airline was handled by our corporate department.”
Late yesterday, Hassan has reacted to what transpired since his ill-fated trip began on Wednesday.
“No personal vendetta on @flyethiopian .I was just shocked & raised it as a matter of public interest. We make mistakes & we only need unconditional apologies, accept, take some lessons & move on. I repeat it’s my 1st time posting an injustice that touched me directly & they’re many,” he wrote.