M'sian man with disability left frustrated in Dubai after SIA forgot to place wheelchair on flight

The incident supposedly cost him a day of work appointments.

Matthias Ang | June 14, 2022, 06:23 PM

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A Malaysian with a disability has criticised Singapore Airlines (SIA) for forgetting to place his custom-made wheelchair on his flight to Dubai, as well as their response to the matter.

Missed work appointments

Speaking to Mothership, Danny Gnaniah said he had arrived in Dubai on the evening of June 10 at 6.30pm for work and to set up his business.

However, he only received his wheelchair at 7pm on June 11 the next day -- after more than 24 hours.

The delay caused Gnaniah to miss work-related appointments.

According to Gnaniah, he suffered a spinal cord injury at birth and has been disabled for all of his life.

The custom-made wheelchair has been critical to his mobility as it is lightweight, made to his body measurements, and made out of titanium, which helps him to move around easily, including in and out of cars.

It also cost him close to S$7,000.

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A post shared by Danny Gnaniah (@dannygnaniah)

Gnaniah added that he was provided with a temporary wheelchair by Dubai's airport to help him get to his hotel.

However, as the temporary wheelchair was "colossal" and the same type of wheelchair used in hospitals, he could not get around easily because its weight meant that he needed to be pushed around.

Repeatedly assured by SIA wheelchair loaded onto flight

Gnaniah said he had originally decided to fly with SIA from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai, via transiting in Singapore, because of its service in handling passengers with disabilities.

"I usually fly Emirates but their service onboard while I wanted to get on my wheelchair wasn’t the best," he said.

When he arrived at Changi Airport, Gnaniah said he had wanted to use his own wheelchair while in transit for his next flight.

However, he was supposedly told by SIA that Changi Airport uses it own wheelchairs, and that airline staff would push him to the aircraft for his next flight.

Gnaniah highlighted that he was also given repeated assurances that his custom wheelchair would be taken care of and safely transferred to his Dubai-bound flight.

Gnaniah acknowledged that his experience in transit was "amazing" as the service he received from both airport and airline staff was "outstanding".

This experience was then undone by how his wheelchair was forgotten, and SIA's subsequent response, he added.

SIA Twitter asks if he would like to apply for a cabin crew position

Gnaniah added that following his arrival in Dubai, he first called the baggage handling team at the airport for help when he realised that he had yet to receive his wheelchair.

When the team did not receive any response from SIA, Gnaniah, who is a Krisflyer member, called the Krisflyer hotline listed for Dubai.

However, he did not receive a response despite it being a 24/7 hotline.

Gnaniah then called SIA's office at the airport, according to the number listed on Google.

This number turned out to be invalid, he added.

He then tried calling the Krisflyer hotline listed for Singapore.

Here, the person who answered his call had "no clue" as to what was going on and was unable to check on the status of his wheelchair, he said.

Gnaniah's frustration mounted when the person could not give him answers to additional questions:

"I asked if I could speak to a supervisor, they said that they’re an external call center and will not be able to help. I asked if there were numbers that I could call, and he had nothing as well."

He then turned to messaging SIA's Facebook and Twitter accounts about the matter, only to be met with the following responses, which he attributed to chat bots:

Source: Photo from Danny Gnaniah/Facebook

Source: Photo from Danny Gnaniah/Facebook

Source: Photo from Danny Gnaniah/Facebook

Source: Photo from Danny Gnaniah/Facebook
Subsequently, Gnaniah received an email from SIA that said that they were still attempting to find his wheelchair, with "no further elaboration given".

Gnaniah said at this point, he panicked as he could not head out for his appointments in the wheelchair provided by Dubai's airport.

He also resorted to calling the lost and found hotline at Changi Airport and was told that it was most probably on board the plane.

However, he said "there was no way to verify this".

Returned to airport personally

Gnaniah eventually decided to return to the airport to look for the SIA office and ask for an explanation from staff there.

"Once there I voiced my disapproval and dissatisfaction at the whole fiasco. They said the chair was onboard (the next flight), though they weren’t 100 per cent sure," he said.

Following this meeting, Gnaniah said he began receiving regular updates "by the minute" via phone calls from the office staff.

He also decided to wait at an airport cafe for the plane to arrive.

Eventually, he received his wheelchair at about 7pm -- more than 24 hours after he had first arrived in Dubai.

Gnaniah added that he has since filled in a complaint form and requested compensation, according to instructions by SIA.

"I want to keep flying with them but they have got to make sure this doesn’t happen again to me or other passengers," he said.

SIA apologises for inconvenience

In response to Mothership's queries, a spokesperson for SIA said:

"Singapore Airlines (SIA) apologises for the inconvenience caused to Mr Danny Gnaniah when he transited through Singapore to Dubai on 10 June 2022. Our staff at Dubai International Airport had contacted Mr Gnaniah and assisted him with a wheelchair until his wheelchair was delivered to him on 11 June. We would also like to apologise for the tweet that was sent to him in error when he reached out to us on Twitter. It was meant to be in reply to a query by a different customer.

Lastly, we would also like to share that the contact information for our Dubai offices listed on our website is correct. Customers are advised to refer to the contact information listed on our website, instead of those provided by external parties.

We have reached out to Mr Danny Gnaniah directly to address the concerns raised. We thank Mr Gnaniah for his feedback, which we will review and see how to better improve on the services rendered to our customers."

Top left and right images via Danny Gnaniah/Facebook, centre image via Danny Gnaniah/Instagram