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Mother with disabled 2yo denied boarding by low-cost Russian airline, sparking outrage

Mother with disabled 2yo denied boarding by low-cost Russian airline, sparking outrage
The Pobeda low-cost airline barred a child with cerebral palsy and his mother from boarding a flight to the city of Yekaterinburg, sparking outrage. The company has since dismissed the employee responsible for the incident.

The problem started when a mother with her disabled child wanted to fly from Moscow to the Russian city of Yekaterinburg in the Ural region on April, 14. Though the company was informed about their special passenger in advance, they were denied registration just before the flight.

At the registration desk, a Pobeda employee told the mother that he could not check them in due to a technical malfunction in the program dealing with the passenger list. The company also noted in a press release that the passenger with the child suffering from cerebral palsy arrived at the registration desk “two minutes before the registration ended." The airline said that it “didn’t have a chance to arrange the boarding of a person with restricted mobility to ensure that the flight isn’t delayed.” 

Pobeda (‘victory’ in Russian) said that the passengers were offered an alternative flight by another airline from another Moscow airport, with a transfer from Vnukovo Airport to Sheremetyevo Airport.

Nevertheless, the airline decided to dismiss the head of ground service due to his “incompetence in organizing the work process at the Vnukovo airport,” as he “should have done his best to ensure the boarding for the passenger with a child.” The company is carrying out a “thorough investigation” into the situation and, apart from the dismissal, plans to issue special guidelines for taking care of disabled passengers.

The appalling incident was condemned by Rosaviation, which called it “unprecedented” with regards to its efforts to “create an inclusive environment.” 

Following the incident, people expressed their outrage at Pobeda’s handling of the case on social media.

Some slammed the company for “lousy behavior,” adding that barring a disabled child from boarding is “inhumane.”

“’Pobeda’ just can’t live without scandals. This time, a mindless ‘Pobeda’ employee refused to let on board a woman with a child with cerebral palsy, offering them to fly another airline. And this is an offshoot of Aeroflot, the best [air] company in Europe. How is that possible?” another message said.

People on Vkontakte, Russia’s largest social media network, recalled other infamous incidents involving the same airline.

“Pobeda… is just a shuttle bus. Once they removed a man with too long legs, then they don’t allow a child with cerebral palsy and his mother. Pobeda, you [are] just a festering hole!” one comment read.

The person was referring to an incident which took place just a month ago. The company removed a volleyball player from their flight in the city of Samara, as his legs were apparently too long, and decided to change his seat for the one with more space. The man, who is 215cm tall, chose a seat in the aisle, which was not free of charge according to company rules. He then apparently did not want to go back to the seat he had checked in for.

The flight hostess called the police to get the passenger off the plane and the flight was delayed for 40 minutes. Pobeda denied all accusations and stated that the man was removed due to his aggressive behavior.

Last year, the company started charging for duty-free bags, later tripling the charge due to the bags “slowing down the boarding process.”

In 2015, the airline banned passengers from chewing gum on board, with Pobeda’s press representative saying that the decision was related to “damage being done to the company.”

Last July, the company banned a couple with a baby from taking free seats because they did not pay an online fee allowing them to choose the seats beforehand. “Half the plane asked the crew to leave them alone,” a witness said, but Pobeda still took the couple to the police. Opinions on the incident were divided – most were for the passengers in question, saying the company should have shown more understanding of the situation, while others noted that the couple should have thought about travelling with a baby and paid for their choice of seats in advance.