El Al Made a Disabled Traveler Buy Extra Seat for Her Walker

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An El Al airplane.
An El Al airplane.Credit: Nir Elias/Reuters

The Commission for Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities filed a suit against El Al Airlines on Sunday for half a million shekels for discriminating against a woman with a physical disability.

The lawsuit said the airline forced the passenger to buy an extra ticket for her walker, for six separate flights. The woman, in her 60s, has a unique form of disability requires a wheelchair for long distances, and a walker for shorter stretches.

When purchasing tickets for a trip with her family to Italy, and paying for an extra ticked as asked, the company also required her to take only evening flights, claiming the mornings were too busy. The commission said, via its attorney Sigalit Porat-Gorenstein, that the special demands made of the passenger and the humiliating behavior of the flight crew, amounted to forbidden discrimination.

For the past 10 years the woman has flown abroad via El Al and the company was considerate of her disability. But, the woman says, the company and its employees began to make a mockery of her needs and to discriminate against her from 2013 to 2015.

The lawsuit says that until 2013 the company would store the walker in the passenger cabin. Afterwards, one of the stewards asked her questions that violated her privacy regarding her disability. ON a return flight, the head steward refused to put the walker in the cabin although he was told the passenger could not walk without it.

The passenger tried to approach customer service and brought medical documents explaining her inability to walk without the walker. The company replied that it was their policy and that the woman would have to buy an additional ticket if she wanted to fly with the walker. The suit also said the woman paid for two tickets or flights that weren't full, contrary to the company's claim there were no additionally available seats.

The commissioner, Avremi Torem, said: "We will be happy to receive appeals from other people with disabilities who feel they have suffered discrimination, and to help them with the tools at our disposal.'

El Al said in response: (The suit is being conducted in court and therefore we shall not relate to it in the media."

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