Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW

​​Questioned about suitability for airplane exit row​

Conciliation - race discrimination

The complainant describes himself as being of Asian background and appearance.  He lodged a complaint on behalf of himself and his two brothers. The three men had booked a domestic flight with an airline and requested seats in the exit row, which are popular because they offer extra leg room. 

The seats were allocated to them by a self-service kiosk at the airport, but when a staff member scanned their boarding passes, they were questioned about their ability to speak English. They said they were asked to repeat what they had been told and to explain what their responsibilities were as passengers sitting in the exit row. After this, the complainant’s two brothers were not allowed to sit in the exit row.  

The airline denied any discrimination. Their representative said that under civil aviation legislation they cannot allow passengers who are not fully willing and able to assist in an emergency to sit in the exit row seats.  

The airline representative said that the complainants had indicated that they met the requirements for exit row seats when booking them at the kiosk. However when the boarding passes are scanned, a signal alerts staff to passengers who are in the exit row.  At this point the complainant and his brothers were questioned in accordance with normal operating procedures to assess whether they were willing and able to assist as required. 

The staff were satisfied that the complainant met the requirements, but his brothers did not appear to understand the questions and did not satisfy the staff that they would be able to carry out the crew’s instructions. They were therefore provided with alternative seats and advised that they could claim back the extra fee for the exit row seats. 

The complainant acknowledged that this was reasonable, but said it was the manner in which he and his brothers had been questioned that had caused him concern. He said that the questioning was done rudely and could have been more polite and discreet.  

At conciliation, the parties were able to gain a better appreciation for each other’s position. The respondent expressed regret about the complainant’s feelings about the interaction and agreed to provide feedback to the staff person concerned.

​​Back to May 2016 - Equal Times ​Newsletter​​

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