The government has asked the company that manages airports in Cambodia to explain why, according to airline Bassaka Air, it demanded $240 from the carrier for helping a disabled passenger board one of its aircraft.
Bassaka Air, which found itself at the centre of a media storm last week after it asked Sudanese wheelchair user Rahma El Siddig Gasm Elbari Mustafa to pay the extra cash, has since blamed Cambodia Airport Management Service Company (CAMS), owned by France’s Vinci Group and Malaysia’s Muhibbah Airport Services (Labuan) Ltd, for the debacle.
The airline wrote to the government’s Disablity Action Council (DAC) on Thursday, denying it had acted in a discriminatory way and saying it had no choice but to ask Mustafa for the extra money because it was asked to pay the sum by CAMS.
The airport company asked it for the money, Bassaka Air claimed in its letter, in return for providing a special lift that raises wheelchairs to the level of an aircraft’s door after its disabled passenger arrived at Siem Reap airport on September 19 to take a flight to Phnom Penh.
Last week, DAC head and Minister for Social Affairs Vong Sauth said the government might take legal action against Bassaka Air if it discovered the airline had intentionally discriminated against a disabled person.
Chairman of DAC General Secretariat, Em Chanmakara, has now written to CAMS director Emanuel Menanpeau asking why an extra fee was charged for helping a wheelchair user board an aircraft.
“I am asking the company to explain the additional charge of $240 officially, reasonably and responsibly, in order to protect disabled people’s interests in Cambodia in accordance with disability protection and empowerment laws and the disability treaty,” he said in his letter.
Menanpeau could not be reached for comment yesterday for comment.
Chanmakara told the Post yesterday that DAC also planned to meet both Bassaka Air and CAMS this week to seek a solution.
“Generally, disabled passengers do not need to pay any additional charge for services,” he added.
Executive director of Cambodia Disability Organization, Ngin Sao Roath took a dim view of Bassaka Air’s explanation of what had happened and said the companies involved were trying to pass the buck.
“Putting the blame on another party is not a good solution,” he said, adding that the airline, the airport management company and the government had a duty to ensure disabled people could travel in comfort.
Roath added that the Cambodia Disability Organization planned to write to Vong Sauth to suggest the establishment of an inter-ministry committee comprising DAC and the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation in order to avoid a similar problem happening in the future.