Troubling Royal Air Maroc Incident

I hear a lot of stories about air travel gone wrong, and at this point it’s kind of hard to throw something new my way. Kind of hard, but not impossible; as evidenced by the following saga of Abdelkader Sifer and his daughter Siham on a recent Royal Air Maroc flight.

According to the Morocco Board News Service, things went fine for the family at the Casablanca airport last month, but the problems began when they boarded the aircraft. Since Siham is a full time wheelchair-user, they boarded the plane by a lift from the tarmac, only to be greeted by what I can only describe as a very rude captain. According to Mr. Sifer, the captain said, “Do you think that with my 160 passengers, I have time to take care of a disabled person?” And with that he closed the aircraft door leaving the Sifers outside on the lift.

But here’s where the story gets even stranger. According to Mr. Sifer, they were then locked in a shed without food or water. The story gets a little fuzzy at this point, but in the end Mr. Sifer said that the airport staff helped him find another flight home to France.

So what exactly happened here? Well Royal Air Maroc confirms that they do have a boarding lift at the Casablanca airport. Unfortunately I don’t know the extent of Ms. Sifer’s disability — other than she’s a wheelchair-user who can’t speak — or if she needed medical clearance to fly; however according to Mr. Sifer they informed their travel agent in France of his daughter’s disability. All I can say is that apparently there was some miscommunication about the extent of Ms. Sifer’s disability. Perhaps it was more severe than the captain expected, or perhaps he was never notified that a wheelchair-user would be aboard.

And yes, the pilot does have the authority to deny boarding to any passenger he feels may be a safety risk; however I think it could have been done in a more polite manner.

And I have no idea about the shed.

There are a lot of things that just don’t add up in this story, but obviously somebody dropped the ball along the way. Additionally, Morocco doesn’t have the same access laws or even the same attitude about advocacy and independence that we do in the US. I expect that had something to do with it as well.

Still, the whole incident really just leaves me scratching my head. Something just isn’t right here.

 

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