German airline, Lufthansa, has been drawn into a legal tussle with a passenger living with disability, who alleges he had was denied using his walking stick in the plane thus inconveniencing his movement during a flight.
Mr Daniel Ochieng Orwenjo, a Kenyan, was flying aboard the airline from Halle airport in Germany to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi on July 3, last year, when the airline’s officers took his walking stick insisting that he checks it in as baggage because it was “too big and that it looked like a weapon.”
Although Mr Orwenjo informed the officers that he could not walk without it, they insisted and checked it in as bulky baggage.
“As a result of the serious failure of the airline to attend to my personal needs, I sat in the aircraft for over 10 hours without going to the washroom for the combined duration of the trip,” Mr Orwenjo said in court papers.
On arrival at the JKIA, Mr Orwenjo could not find his walking stick and after several enquiries, he was informed that it had remained behind in Germany.
He waited for hours as the airline was allegedly “looking for a local solution”. He claims the airline did not listen to his pleas to be assisted to go to the washrooms.
Eventually, he was given a metallic rod to use for his trip to Accra on July 4 despite having been assured that the stick, being his lifeline, would be delivered to his hotel the same day he arrived at JKIA in the evening.
Mr Orwenjo says he is a registered disabled person and relies on his walking stick for movement without which he is rendered immobile.
The airline knowing of the disability and need, foresaw the harm but failed to meet a standard of reasonable care, he claims.
“Indeed the metallic rod is so slippery that I fell down no less than eight times from the time I started using it. Needless to say, I suffered physical and psychological injury,” Mr Orwenjo said in court papers.
Lufthansa, however, argues that Mr Orwenjo had a thick wooden pole, “which appeared to be in excess of two metres in length.”
The airline refused to allow him to carry the pole on board and required that it be carried in the cargo hold of the aircraft as it contravenes the commission regulations list of prohibited articles for passengers and cabin baggage.
“We deny that Mr Orwenjo was unable to attend to personal needs or left stationary for over 10 hours as alleged,” Lufthansa German Airline says in replying affidavit.
The airline nevertheless admits that on arrival in Nairobi, the wooden pole was not in the cargo hold of the aircraft.
The airline arranged for a metal pole to be quickly fabricated for Mr Orwenjo’s use as a substitute for the wooden pole.
“Mr Orwenjo left for Ghana the next day early morning before his wooden pole was received from Germany. The wooden pole was delivered to him at JKIA on his return from Ghana,” Lufthansa German Airline in court papers.
The airline further states that the carriage of the passenger was covered by the Warsaw Convention as amended by the Montreal Convention, and by the Carriage by Air Act.
“The matters complained by Mr Orwenjo are not the subject of any liability attaching to us under the Conventions or the Act,” Lufthansa German Airline in court papers.
Mr Orwenjo says he has flown aboard many airlines with the same walking stick and neither has it been treated as a weapon nor has he experienced such grave injustice as exhibited by Lufthansa German Airline.