Africa World Airline to pay GHC20, 000 for discriminating against a physically challenged lady

"That to my dismay, however, I was prevented from boarding the flight by officials/employees/agents of the Respondent on grounds of my physical disability," the appellant averred

Is allowance instantly strangers applauded

After the applicant, Rita Kriba, a physically challenged person was prevented from boarding a Kumasi-bound flight of the Africa World Airline on May 5, 2018, despite having bought a ticket, she filed an action at the High Court.

On June 11, 2018, Rita caused her solicitors to file a motion for the enforcement of human rights under Article 33 of the 1992 Constitution arguing among others that she was denied access to the flight purely based on her physical disability thereby amounting to a breach of her fundamental human right and a breach of contract.

The High Court however held in favor of the respondent(Africa World Airline) but upon appeal to the Court of Appeal, the High Court judgment was overturned in favor of the applicant and was awarded a sum of Twenty Thousand Cedis.

She averred that after going through the various boarding formalities on that day and was about to board the flight, she was prevented by the staff of the airline after finding out from her if she was capable of boarding the flight with her crutches unassisted.

After this, she notes that she started a media blitz to raise awareness of this discriminatory act which necessitated a response from the airline company which explained that her denial was on the ground of safety per their policy.

In its response at the trial court, the Africa World Airline noted among others that it had structural challenges and that the applicant failed to comply with their terms of service which enjoins persons with disability to make prior arrangements for special assistance.

They noted also that the type of flight operated could not accommodate passengers with crutches since they will pose a danger to themselves and other passengers in times of emergency.

Also, the Africa World Airline noted that the regulation of their industry per the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority restricts their type of aircraft carrying passengers with reduced mobility.

The trial court however in its judgment dismissed the applicant's action noting that even though there existed a valid contract between the parties, the AWA’s refusal to perform the obligation for transporting the applicant was ‘excusable’

Court of Appeal

Dissatisfied with the outcome, Rita went to the Court of Appeal to challenge the same.

The court struck out the appellant’s ground of breach of contract and instructed her to challenge the same separately in an appropriate action.

Their Lordships also made a finding per the rules that though the Attorney General should have been added to such an action, the failure is not fatal.

The court also established that the respondent, Africa World Airline's denial of access to the appellant to board the plane, could have only been within the law if it had done so under Article 12(2) of the 1992 Constitution.

However, according to the court, the respondent failed to demonstrate or prove that the carriage of the appellant posed a danger to the safety of other passengers in the event of an emergency.

Also, the defense of their flight not being suited for physically challenged and their requirement for 48-hour advance notice by such persons were held as conjured and belatedly cooked to justify its wrongful action.

The court held that the decision of the High Court was in contravention of the spirit of the 1992 Constitution on disability rights in Ghana.

Consequently, the court granted the appeal in part as follows; 

That the conduct of the Respondent(Africa World Airline) violated the fundamental human rights of the appellant particularly the right to freedom from discrimination on the grounds of disability and the right to human dignity.

A pecuniary award of Twenty Thousand Ghana Cedis was awarded in favor of the appellant for the breach of her fundamental human rights; and 

The respondent shall bear the appellant’s cost of the litigation.

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