Denied Boarding in the Philippines

Even with all of our access regulations and enforcement agencies here in the west, we still have to be careful when we travel to some areas of the world, especially when air travel is involved. That’s a point I really try and impress upon folks setting off for Asia or Africa or even the Caribbean; yet I’m often accused of being ethnocentric for the mere suggestion.

I’m not.

I’m just reporting the facts.

People with a mobility disability who travel alone are indeed denied boarding by many foreign airlines.

But the good news is, at least complaints are being made. Years ago, folks just had to suck it up and take it.

Now people like Katrina Segundo-Casino are taking action.

Katrina was denied boarding in August 2007 by Cebu Pacific airlines, when they told her she was “unfit to travel unaccompanied.” Ms Segundo-Casino has a neurological disability, and she even secured a fitness to travel letter from her doctor prior to making her reservation. All to no avail, as she was not allowed on the flight.

The airline subsequently offered Ms. Segundo-Casino some gift certificates, but considering the fact that she would probably be denied boarding again, it seemed an empty gesture.

So she filed a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights against Cebu Pacific for “gross discriminatory acts against a person with a disability”. Under Philippine law this issue is covered in Republic Act 7227, which is also known as the Magna Carta for the disabled.

It was reported last week that the Commission on Human Rights is now pursing the complaint. Granted, by all appearances it seems a slow process, but at least a remedy is available. And people like Ms. Segundo-Casino are stepping up and fighting for their rights. So in a sense that is progress.

Still, this is more trouble than most tourists want to go through, so if your travels take you to the Philippines, it’s best to avoid Cebu Pacific airlines. At least for now.