Early this month Hong Kong Airlines denied passage to a wheelchair-user who was traveling alone. Twenty-two year old Shen Chengqing was scheduled to travel from Hong Kong to Tianjin, but airport staff refused to check her in when they discovered she was traveling solo. According to Chengqing, she notified the reservation agent that she used a wheelchair when she bought her ticket.
So what happened?
I have to admit the airline – unlike other Asian airlines – is a bit ambiguous on their unaccompanied wheelchair passenger policy. Some airlines outright ban solo wheelchair travelers due to safety reasons. Their rationale is that in an emergency they will be unable to evacuate unassisted. That’s not the case with Hong King Airlines.
The only thing that the Hong Kong Airlines website states in regard to unaccompanied wheelchair passengers is, “For safety reasons, our staff will not be able to help with personal care efforts – including help with eating and drinking, administering medication, and assistance inside the lavatory. For these needs, we recommend that you travel with a personal care attendant.”
Perhaps it’s the English translation, but “recommend” is a far cry from “require”. Furthermore, it’s entirely possible that the passenger in question might not have required any assistance on the 3.5-hour flight.
But apparently Hong Kong Airlines didn’t see it that way.
Maybe they didn’t want to take any chances after an unruly able-bodied passenger told Eva flight attendants last month that he would urinate on the floor if they did not assist him in the lavatory. Granted he wasn’t in a wheelchair – although he was overweight and claimed he couldn’t pull his pants down unassisted – but perhaps the incident is just too fresh in everyone’s mind.
Either way, add Hong Kong Airlines to the list of carriers that solo wheelchair travelers should avoid.
And here are some other denied boarding incidents. Forewarned is forearmed.