Friday, February 20, 2009

Russian airline faces lawsuit for barring passenger with visual impairment

From RIA Novosti:

MOSCOW -- Russian air carrier S7 is facing a new 1 million-ruble ($30,000) suit for not letting Pavel Obiukh, who has a sight disability, on one of its planes, the man's lawyer said on Feb. 19.

"Pavel [Obiukh] will return from his business trip on Friday. We will study all circumstances and prepare the necessary documents for a lawsuit," Maxim Larionov said. "I expect all the documents to be ready by the end of next week."

On Wednesday, the air carrier prevented a person with sight disability, Pavel Obiukh, from boarding on a flight from Moscow to Kazan, the capital of Russia's Volga Republic of Tatarstan. The air carrier's employees cited an "internal instruction," although Obiukh said they had been notified about his disability beforehand.

The airline said in a statement on Thursday that Obiukh was not allowed onboard as the ticket agent failed to notify the air carrier about the disabled passenger, which is a standard procedure in such cases.

"The agent failed to comply with the procedure of confirming transportation for this category of passenger, which is proved by data in the booking system," S7 said.

Last October, a Moscow court awarded 50,000 rubles ($1,896 at the time) in compensation to a wheelchair-bound disabled woman, who filed a 1-million ruble suit against S7 for refusing to let her fly without an accompanying person.

The Russian Prosecutor General's Office is currently preparing a probe into Obiukh's case. Russia's state aviation regulator, the Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsia) said it would launch an investigation into the matter upon receiving a complaint from the passenger.

"First of all the disabled person should file a complaint about the air carrier to Rosaviatsia or [Russian transport watchdog] Rostransnadzor, to launch an investigation," a Rosaviatsia spokesman said.

According to the Russian air code, an air carrier can refuse to allow a disabled person on board without an accompanying person if it was not informed about the passenger's disability in advance.