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July 23, 2004

Airline refuses deaf teens flight

From: BBC News, UK - Jul 23, 2004

A group of deaf teenagers going on holiday to celebrate the end of their A Levels were told to leave their plane because they did not have an escort.

The pupils from Mary Hare Grammar School for the Deaf at Newbury, Berkshire, were due to go on holiday to the Canary Islands, via Madrid.

The group had boarded the plane when Iberia Airlines staff told them they could not travel without escorts.

Parents said the 23 youngsters had been "humiliated" by the airline.

Shadia Haddad, one of students involved, said: "As soon as we got into the plane, they counted us to see how many there were and they asked who was in charge.

"They said there was a problem because we needed to have a hearing person with us. After having an argument with the captain they kicked us off.

"It makes me feel like I'm not a human being and it makes me feel like I'm not normal, just because I'm deaf they treat me differently."

But Iberia defended its actions, saying it was only following regulations, although the UK Civil Aviation Authority says it has no such regulation.

A spokeswoman for the airline said: "The travel agent who handled the booking never told us the people were deaf - the travel agent should have told the people about the regulations."

Company apologises

But a parent of one the teenagers said: "I am absolutely disgusted. These young people have the courage to travel despite their disability but they have been embarrassed.

"A lot of them were crying and they have been made a spectacle just because of their disability."

In a statement, said: "The group were regrettably mistakenly booked by bookers to exceed airline restrictions on the number of persons with disabilities Iberia are able to carry on any one flight, without carers.

" and Iberia Airlines are working hard together to re-book all of the affected passengers onto alternative flights departing Heathrow from on Friday."

Representatives from the travel agent will accompany the teenagers on the flight.

Chris Sherlock, for, said: " apologises for any distress caused to the passengers involved and is doing all it can to ensure they are able to continue their holiday with as little disruption as possible."

But the Royal National Institute for the Deaf (RNID) said: "From what we know, the RNID cannot understand why it appears Iberia Airlines has taken this action that has unnecessarily disrupted the holiday of these young adults.

"Iberia seems to have mistaken the health and safety risks that these young adults may have posed. It shows again the reason why airlines need to be covered by the Disability Discrimination Act."