Low-cost airline Tiger Air refused to allow a blind man on a flight from Husein Sastranegara International Airport, Bandung, to Singapore as he was unaccompanied.
"I am used to flying alone domestically and abroad. This is the first time I have been rejected. This is discrimination," Hendra Jatmika Pristiwa, 38, told The Jakarta Post at his house on Tuesday.
Hendra had to cancel his business meeting on Monday due to the situation. "I was supposed to hand over work to a colleague in Singapore. Although I could have sent it through a courier service, there were many things we needed to discuss," he said.
Hendra bought his ticket online on Oct. 8, paying with a credit card, and believed he had completed all of Tiger Air's procedures.
"There was even a female employee who helped me check-in and told me that she would assist me when I boarded the airplane," he said.
However, when passengers were boarding the plane, another employee, Hastadi, turned Hendra away and told him he could not board the airplane because the pilot said he could not carry an unaccompanied disabled person.
"I was told [this] by Hastadi, the Tiger Air representative in charge and I was not allowed ask the pilot why he refused to fly with me onboard. This is clearly discriminatory," said Hendra.
Tiger Air would not refund the ticket price or airport tax Hendra had paid by, but did give him a declaration that explained, based on Tiger Air's ground-operation rules, the pilot and ground crew could not carry Hendra without a carer.
Hendra said he had chosen Tiger Air because of the airline's declaration on special assistance/needs, which stated: "Tiger Air will provide assistance, as far as is reasonably possible and in accordance with this policy, to our customers who need help in order to travel with us. We will do so in a dignified and non-discriminatory manner, within the constraints of the available resources."
Hendra said the airline, in its conditions, stated that disabled passengers should inform the airline five days before departure of any disabilities.
"The website does says that 'Visually impaired passengers on flights to or from Singapore must be accompanied by a carer'," Hendra said.
He argued that Tiger Air had been made aware that he would be unaccompanied and an airline employee would help him when boarding.
Lukas Suryananta, from Tiger Air's public relations, said he needed to check the matter with a Tigerair Singapore colleague.
Chairman of the Indonesian Blind Association, Didi Tarsidi, said the incident was discrimination and the requirement for blind people to be accompanied was purely for the airline's financial benefit.
Article 134 of Law No. 1/2009 on aviation stipulates that disabled people, senior citizens and minors under 12 years old, and/or sick passengers are entitled to special treatment and facilities from airlines.