Bassaka Air will return the $240 fee it charged a wheelchair user who had to be mechanically lifted onto a flight in Siem Reap in September, the airline said in a statement on Monday.
The statement said the passenger was charged because of poor communication between the airline and Cambodia Airport Management Services (CAMS) over the use of “ambulift” services.
“The incident occurred…because communication and notification between the two companies…has not been smooth,” it said. “Bassaka Air will improve its attention…to providing disabled people with the best possible service and will exempt them from extra charges as often as possible.”
On September 19, Rahma Elsiddig Gasm, a Sudanese official for Action on Disability and Development (ADD) International, asked for assistance to board a Bassaka Air flight from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. Employees charged Ms. Elsiddig Gasm because she had not told them in advance that she would need to use the ambulift service.
Em Chanmakara, secretary-general of the Disability Action Council, which sent CAMS a letter asking the group to clarify its policy on September 25, said that there had been a misunderstanding of the contract between CAMS and Bassaka Air.
Previously, airlines would charge for ambulift services on flights that had to be boarded from the tarmac, Mr. Chanmakara said, but CAMS had eliminated that fee.
“Bassaka Air had not received the new policy and so its explanation [to Ms. Elsidding Gasm] was done without being aware of the new one,” he said.
CAMS public relations director Khek Norinda, however, said Bassak Air employees knew of the new policy but misunderstood it.
“The incident was due to the misinterpretation of the policy regarding the use of ambulift for passengers with reduced mobility,” he said.
In its statement, the airline said it would refund Ms. Elsiddig Gasm for the fee via ADD International.
(Additional reporting by Meghan Tribe)