Deaf News: Airline prevents deaf-blind South African priest from flying

Posted on August 13, 2013

A popular Deafblind priest said he felt “humiliated” after he was stopped from boarding a domestic flight at Cape Town International Airport in South Africa because of his deafblindness.

Father Cyril Axelrod was forced to miss his flight to Johannesburg where he was supposed to celebrate Mass for Deaf parishioners. According to reports, the Comair flight captain told Father Axelrod that the airline’s policy prevented him from travelling without a safety assistant


(Father Cyril) Axelrod said he approached the Comair check-in counter at Cape Town International Airport on Saturday afternoon with a medical card that detailed his disabilities and confirmed he was able to fly alone. He was told by the flight’s captain that Comair policy would not allow him to fly unaccompanied. Axelrod said he had not encountered such a problem before.

“I can’t believe how they treated me because I have been flying alone for 13 years. I’ve been flying all over the world and this is the first time this has  happened,” he said.

Comair spokeswoman Susan van der Ryst said the airline had a different policy from that of its owners, British Airways, which she said might have been a source of confusion.

“For the safety of the customer as well as fellow customers and crew, Comair requires customers who are deaf as well as blind to be escorted by a qualified person who can communicate with the customer in case of an emergency,” she said.

She said Axelrod had been made aware of this provision but had refused to pay for a trained assistant at the cost of another ticket. She said Comair would refund his ticket.

“I always help staff to learn how to work with me. They’re always happy to communicate,” Axelrod said. “Yesterday they didn’t want to do anything to help me. I tried to explain to them that I was willing to show them how to help and communicate with me, but they weren’t interested.”

Read the full article here:

South African’s national deaf association has come out in Axelrod’s defence here and invoked the UN Convention on the rights of people with disabilities, of which South Africa is a signatory. This news comes soon after another deaf-blind passenger was ejected from his seat on safety grounds only to have his seat re-occupied by a drunk.

By Paul Harrison, the Limping Chicken’s News Reporter. Paul is a freelance journalist, currently living and working in London. When not at his desk writing or tweeting, he can be found at a coffee shop or Loftus Road/The Stoop/Celtic Park (delete as applicable) mumbling insults at the referee or sloppy passing. Follow him on Twitter as @paulbharrison

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Posted in: deaf news