A regional airline is receiving much-deserved backlash after refusing to accommodate a quadriplegic man, claiming it was against the law for him to board the plane.
Terence Willemse from Bloemfontein had planned to fly to Johannesburg to watch Guns ‘n Roses on their recent South African tour.
According to Terence he was meant to travel with CemAir but had been told he would not be able to board the plane and had been left to wait 30 minutes before Stephen Geldenhuys, a manager at CemAir, had approached him.
The manager had explained that he would not be able to fly to Joburg as it was ‘against the law’, leaving Willemse in a dire situation. Willemse said that the manager had made a scene in front of other passengers and that in the end, he had left the airport feeling humiliated.
“To me, it was a terrible experience. They made me feel extremely unwelcome and acted very unprofessionally.”
In a bizare turn of events, Willemse had received a call from CemAir 30 minutes after leaving the airport, granting him permission to board.
Naturally, Willemse was left wondering how the ‘law’ that had dashed his dream to attend the concert could have changed in such a small amount of time. He revealed that he had not returned to the airport to board the flight after the poor treatment he had suffered.
Left disappointed, Willemse had confessed that it was not about the money or the concert for him but the missed opportunity to visit his sister during the same trip.
Cheryl van Lingen had expressed how saddened she had been at the dismal treatment of her brother.
“If I put myself in his situation, I realise how degraded he must have felt. Just thinking about it still brings tears to my eyes.” Lingen had said in an interview with Bloemfontein Courant.
In a response to the situation, Monique van der Bank had revealed that the issue had been a safety concern in the event of an emergency. Willemse’s disability required an able-bodied person to accompany him on the flight to assist him should anything have happened.
According to van der Bank, the disability should have been disclosed when the booking had been made and the staff at the airline had been unaware of the situation until he had attempted to board.
According to Van der Bank the reservations department had immediately made arrangements to help, which had then been declined by Willemse.
“Stephen, our Bloemfontein manager’s intention was never to discriminate or humiliate Mr Willemse, and he apologises if he has offended him,” Van der Bank said.
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