Singapore Airlines Draws Flak For Asking Amputee to Switch Seats
23-year-old Australian student, Isabella Beale, is a congenital amputee without a left forearm. Beale was flying to and from Europe on Singapore Airlines and on the two separate occasions, was asked to switch from her seat on the emergency exit row.
It’s common for there to be certain passenger restrictions when it comes to those seats. Passengers seated there must have the strength or dexterity to operate the emergency exits if the need arises.
In compliance with the flight safety guidelines of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, passengers in seats next to the emergency exit doors must, among other requirements that the airlines listed on their website, “be fully able-bodied and have sufficient physical dexterity, strength and mobility to open and pass through the emergency exit doors without assistance and without impeding others.”
Beale claimed that she did not require any assistance and that she was discriminated against for being an amputee. She felt that cabin crew members left her “feeling humiliated” in front of other passengers.
When speaking to ABC News, Beale said that on the flight to Europe, “All of a sudden, an air hostess approaches me and, in quite a loud tone and quite, like frantic and rushed, she just says, ‘Get out, get out of that seat now, you need to get up'” and then told her she had to sit in the row behind.
The experience on the return flight was worse, when she was again asked to vacate the emergency row seat (she had checked with the ground staff and they had confirmed that she could have the seat). Beale said that she was again affronted, with a lot of yelling and raising of voices, and one of the senior staff pointed at her missing limb and said, “Well, the problem’s obvious.”
Singapore Airlines is well-known for their professionalism and high standards. But perhaps being a stickler for rules sometimes lead one to forget something called empathy. The airline has already apologised for the incident and said they will be revising their procedure ie. manage the issue during check-in or boarding, and not after the passenger has taken their seat.