HONOLULU — An Oahu woman is challenging Hawaiian Airlines’ decision to charge her a fee for having her autistic son escorted through the airport.
Debbie Kobayakawa is asking the airline to get rid of the service charge and retrain its employees on how to better handle passengers with disabilities, Hawaii News Now reported (http://bit.ly/2dNmQ9S).
“What I want to see Hawaiian do is be in compliance with the federal law,” Kobayakawa said.
Her 26-year-old son, Ian Nieblas, is autistic, legally blind and hard of hearing.
“He knows how to fly and get on the plane, but he can’t read well enough to navigate the airport and he has challenges with directions,” Kobayakawa said. “I believe that my son should have the same rights as anyone else.”
Nieblas took a trip earlier this month from Honolulu to Sacramento, California, with Hawaiian Air, and Kobayakawa said she was charged $100 after airline employees helped him get around the airport. She said the fee is against the law.
Louis Erteshik, with the Hawaii Disability Rights Center, said he had never heard of such a fee and that it’s “very questionable as to whether that’s legal.”
Hawaiian Airlines issued a statement saying it escorts passengers with disabilities “from the curb to the gate” free of charge, but anything beyond that requires a fee. The charge is intended to “cover the cost associated with dedicating a staff member to provide assistance for an extended period.”
The company said it is looking into the incident and will issue a refund if the charge was made in error.
Information from: KGMB-TV, http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/