Kenyans on social media have been up in arms with outrage all directed towards fly 540,a low- cost local airline here in Kenya. The reasons for their rage being the alleged maltreatment of a disabled man in the airport who is also father to a popular gospel musician. The Bishop claims that they(fly 540) denied him support when he was disembarking from the plane at JKIA in Nairobi.
The story mostly adopted by tabloids and sensational blogs was hijacked by emotions and no one really wanted to hear the narrative from the Fly 540 Team. His disability becoming the centre of the whole outrage people with personal vendetta towards Fly 540 got an opportune time to foul their name.
As a Kenyan of sound Mind, and a unyielding believer of fairness I also took the initiative to get the details of the trending chronicle. Reason being, It is easy to lay the blame on fly 540 for it was not given a chance to air its side of the story. I therefore wrote an email requesting for their side of the story. Before then, the concerns lingering my mind were:
1. Being a bishop who has been in the public eye in Kenya, he has had local and international travel familiarity. Having lived with a disability (polio), for a long time, and being a fairly old man, he is at a better position to chivalrously express his “need for assistance”. Therefore if as indicated there was a 40-minute standoff, he must have affronted and addressed the crew without respect and the dignity they deserve.
2. He has flew with Fly 540.Why would he be “forced to crawl” this time and not any other time in his travel history with the said airline.
3.As is the case with a person with a special need, it would have been imperative for him and any other person in such a case to disclose so that the team is aware and they would have made arrangements as they had always made in his past travel experience.
4. Being a person of his position in society, he would have chosen another airline to travel with if he had past issues of discomfort with the air planes provided by fly 540.
5. While the law provides the right for accessible infrastructure, it limits this right by saying that it should not cause undue costs to the company. Therefore Fly 540 was within reasonable doubt, very concerned of its clients by indicating three times in its website that because of its young nature, the insurance policy it subscribes to does not cover a particular provision
6.Was he alone in the air plane from Eldoret? If not, Why was there no fellow passenger who has come up personal witness account of what befell a fellow passenger? Could it be he was so insulting that no one could defend him in the whole plane?
I wrote to Fly 540 on this issue and this was their feedback:
I have been asked to respond to you on behalf of the Company. Many thanks for your interest in the situation. More importantly, thank you for asking us to present the facts to you.Before we do, may I kindly point out that on our website you will note two pages http://www.fly540.com/CSR.phpand http://www.fly540.com/sponsorship.php that demonstrate the ethos of the Company. These are not empty words but actual deeds made possible through the dedication of our staff and customers alike. Today’s allegations are not just against the airline but its staff too and I want to assure you that we take the matter seriously.
To the matter in hand, we have released the second of our statements today following a through statement. It should be read in conjuction with the statement we issued earlier today. Below are both the statements issued today with the latest one first:
Following an investigation conducted today, the Company makes the following statement:
“Bishop Kosgei has travelled with 540 several times before. Our aircraft are small with no ability for passenger lifts and he knows this to be the case as he has been helped on and off the aircraft previously.
The company is still shocked over this issue. We are a socially aware and responsible company. Following the incident, the Bishop did not enter a formal complaint to the company or any members of senior staff. If there was an issue of such importance, we do not understand why the good Bishop did not inform us but instead chose to air it publicly.
The facts are that our staff offered to help the good Bishop but he strenuously refused. On this occasion he asked for a passenger lift which he knew we are not equipped to do. We are at a loss as to why he turned down the offer of help.
Once he disembarked, he went off in a wheelchair to collect his bags. 540 have a dedicated team who will move heaven and earth to help any passenger, less abled or not. We are saddened by the whole episode and the slur on our hardworking staff.”
Away from all this, it beats logic and even common sense on how a whole crew could tell off a disabled man just like that, and let him crawl. I refuse to believe that. There must have been a altercation where the bishop refused to get supported.
In such a situation it is quite easy to pass a guilty verdict on Fly 540 for the bishop is a disabled man and on matter disability people get emotional rather than rational and objective. The common adage goes that “disability is not inability”. Therefore the Bishop’s disability does not mean his inability to be uncouth, discourteous and taking advantage of his disability to intimidate fly 540.
As a business graduate, I know how bad media hype affects a business and with enough examples of companies that have gone down due to such. Therefore the service industry has unrelenting to ensure that they attract clientele and Fly 540 is no different. Knowing these basic market facts, it does not require rocket science for one to doubt the authority of the Bishop’s sequence of events.
With the court of public opinion already having decided to pass the verdict of FLY 540,It is my prayer that this upcoming low-cost travel airline will thrive and succeed in its endeavours and also to remind them that most successful business always pass through such low moments.
It is also my prayer that the bishop will issue unequivocal apology for the damage he has caused to the name of FLY 540 and the financial damage this will cause to the company. The apology should have be given the same dominance as the original damage.
Wanja Maina is an Equality&Non-discrimination analyst,who comments on an array of topical issues.She holds a Bsc In Management.Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org