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KM Malta Airlines faces public backlash over ‘discriminatory’ wheelchair fees 

Newcomer KM Malta Airlines has already flown into a storm over its apparent requirement for wheelchair users to complete and submit a €15 medical form when booking a flight on the carrier. The controversial fee has been labeled as “discriminatory” by several passenger groups as well as the Head of the Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), Rhoda Garland. 

According to a report published by the Times of Malta newspaper, wheelchair users, passengers with reduced mobility, and those with medical requirements are required by KM Malta Airlines to fill in a Medical Information Form (MEDIF) and submit it in advance of their flight to be reviewed and approved by the carrier. The same form must also be filled in for passengers who require oxygen supply on board, mothers who are over 36 weeks pregnant, and passengers who have severe medical conditions. 

The airline’s policy also points out that while the crew is ready to assist passengers with reduced mobility, they must travel with another passenger if they are not “self-reliant”. 

However, the policy has sparked a backlash from wheelchair users and their families, even though the airline has only been flying in its current iteration since March 31, 2024. In recent weeks, the CRPD reports that it has received “numerous complaints” from people with disabilities wishing to fly on the airline. 

“This is appalling, and needs to stop as these requirements are discriminatory,” CRPD Commissioner Rhoda Garland said. “I’ve received numerous complaints about these policies, including from my employees who have flown with different airlines for years and were never asked to fill in a medical form. We are investigating all these complaints.” 

Anna Tamila / Shutterstock

Earlier in April 2024, Garland attended a meeting with representatives of the airline who informed her that the policies were always in place with Air Malta, the carrier’s predecessor which was shut down by the Maltese Government and flew its last services on March 30, 2024. However, Garland insists that this was not the case.  

Garland told the Times of Malta that she had begun to receive complaints a few weeks ago before Air Malta was replaced by KM Malta Airlines and said she was unaware of when or why Air Malta changed its policy just as it was shutting down.  

According to one traveler who is a frequent flyer and a wheelchair user, she had never before been asked to fill out a special form or pay a fee on Air Malta.  

“I travel quite often, at least once a year, and this was the first time,” the passenger told the Times of Malta. She said she felt discriminated against when the airline mentioned the €15 fee and said she had never heard of such a procedure. 

KM Malta Airlines

Another passenger whose son is a wheelchair user, has also filed a complaint with the CRPD, calling the fee both “illegal and discriminatory”. 

“The blanket requirement for an accompanying passenger is not just discriminatory, it’s illegal,” the passenger said. “My son travels very regularly and holds a part-time job in addition to continuing his studies. He also works in tourism. So, he is old enough to be a mayor, but the airline prevents him from flying alone.” 

“I shall also be encouraging everyone else to follow suit,” she added. “The issue is more than just about paying a fee, it is about attempting to implement blanket policies and treating people with different abilities as social pariahs that need to be managed instead of respecting their humanity and understanding that they have rights just like anybody else.” 

The passenger said that she plans to boycott KM Malta Airlines until the policies are changed. 

According to EU passenger rights, persons with disabilities or reduced mobility are entitled to receive free-of-charge assistance in airports and on aircraft. KM Malta Airlines is yet to formally respond to the complaints. 

The post KM Malta Airlines faces public backlash over ‘discriminatory’ wheelchair fees  appeared first on AeroTime.

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