Saturday, November 15, 2008

To Dubai on an Emirates Airbus 380

My current business trip started by heading for Dubai, United Arab Emirates. I had been invited to attend the Global Agenda Council meeting organized by the World Economic Forum. It was easier to say yes than usual: I'd never been to Dubai or the region, and the government of Dubai and Emirates airline offered to fly me there business class!

Two flight attendants at the bar on an Airbus 380I was stunned when I found out in New York that the plane I was boarding was the new Airbus A380, the massive, double-decker airliner. The entire second floor is first and business class, and the first class (which I didn't get to see) is famous for having showers. The experience was wonderful, although I must admit I slept soundly for at least eight hours.
Jim Fruchterman behind the bar on an Airbus 380When I got up, I hung out in the bar taking pictures (of course). I had slept through the night and into the late afternoon in the Middle East. We flew over snow-capped mountains in Turkey.

View of A380 wingtipI was surprised a little later to realize that we were flying over Iraq. It seemed ironic, to be encased in this latest and most luxurious flying conveyance, drinking fine wine and eating good food, while Iraqis and Americans are still dying and struggling to bring peace to that troubled land.

Flying down the Persian Gulf, alongside Iran's coast, we arrived in Dubai.

Welcome to Dubai signI headed to my hotel to get some sleep before touring the Emirates on the day I had before the Council's started meeting.

My full set of pictures are on Flickr: Dubai, UAE, Oman and Airbus 380 - a set on Flickr

1 comment:

scott said...

HI Jim,

I'm on the road and don't have your direct email (again) so I'm pssing this along on your famous flight with Rami

scott

Date Mon 11/17/2008 1:31 PM
RBbieler@AOL.COM
Subject [GPDD] Fwd: Letter To The President Of The People's Republic Of China

Friends,

Many of you know Rami Rabby, who I call the "Father of the CRPD" . Rami, who was on our Board of Directors at IIDI, was serving as a diplomat at the US mission to the UN in NY, at the end of 2001, when he phoned us saying that Mexico was trying to present the proposal of a Convention but they were facing enormous resistance and discouragement, specially by the " powerful countries of the North", and suggested us to get support letter from NGO, DPOs and as many people as possible, from across the globe to be sent to the Mexican Mission, to the UN Secretary General and for all the missions.

I'm sure many of you will remember receiving our request and sending a huge number of support letters within days to the UN. I'm also sure that this contributed a lot for the decision of the General Assembly to consider a process of a Disability Convention at that time.

Unfortunately, Rami was assigner to Asia at that year and could not follow the process, at least in person, with us, as we would have greatly appreciated. Rami is now retired from the US Department of State and back to his native country, Israel. Of course, he is retired as a US diplomat but he clearly remains the great advocate that we all know him for!

I'm copying to you his message below, that I consider of the interest of all of us. Rami has authorized us to share with as many people as we may think could help advance this issue.

Inclusive Tourism and travel has been as issue of interest of many of us. So, I hope you can make good use of Rami's story. Suggestions are welcomed!

All the best,
rbb

Inter-American Institute on Disability & Inclusive Development
- Doing our part on the construction of a society for all -

Rosangela Berman Bieler
Executive Director
27-37 27th Street, #1B,
New York, NY 11102
Tel: 1(347) 738-6472
E-mail: RBbieler@aol.com
Website: www.iidi.org

****************************8

Dear Rosangela:
>
> It was lovely to talk with you on the phone and to reestablish contact.
> Below you will find all the material I have so far about the two
> incidents I encountered on my recent trip to China. I should be most
> grateful to you if you would disseminate it to whomever you think
> appropriate.
> I am going to be away from Israel until Nov. 28, so I will get back in
> touch with you then.
>
> Thank you, again, and all the best,
> Rami
>
>
> To: President Hu Jin Tau
> People's Republic of China
>
> Dear Mr. President,
>
> I am a blind person, retired from the diplomatic service of the U.S.
> Department of State and now living in Israel. On September 16, 2008, I
> travelled on an El-Al flight from Tel-Aviv to Hong Kong where I joined
> a small group of sighted American friends, all of us associated to a
> greater or lesser degree with the Hadley School for the Blind, a
> highly-renowned international correspondence school for the blind
> which operates a branch, Hadley/China, in Fuzhou. Our threefold
> purpose was to participate in the 20th anniversary celebration of
> Hadley/China; to visit a number of other schools and service agencies
> for the blind and disabled; and to spend some time sightseeing. I
> write to you because, on one occasion at the Hong Kong International
> Airport and on a second occasion at the Great Wall, I was subjected to
> profoundly demeaning and humiliating treatment by officials whose
> condescension toward the blind and low expectation of their abilities
> where more egregious than any I have encountered elsewhere on my
> extensive international travels.
>
> On the first occasion, I and my fellow travelers where scheduled to
> fly from Hong Kong to Fuzhou, on Dragonair flight 660, at 08:50 AM, on
> Sunday, September 21. After boarding the aircraft, three of us who
> were all assigned to the same row, agreed that I would sit in the
> aisle sit. Imagine my astonishment when one of the flight attendants
> ordered me to move to the window seat because, she said, "blind people
> must sit by the window". I asked why; she simply said that was the
> rule; so, in the absence of any rational explanation, I declined to
> move. This exchange proved to be just the beginning of an hour-long
> argument: I, on the one hand, repeatedly asked for a rational
> explanation of the "blind by the window" regulation, while, on the
> other hand, all members of the crew, including the captain, as well as
> other airport officials, adamantly refused to provide me with an
> acceptable rationale. They did say the regulation was aimed at "the
> safety of passengers", apparently ignoring the fact that I, too, was a
> passenger with the same rights and safety needs as my sighted
> counterparts. I begged the captain to call his superiors and ask them
> for a rational explanation, but he repeatedly rejected my appeals and,
> instead, attempted in vain to embarrass me by telling me that I was
> preventing all my fellow passengers from reaching their destination,
> again, ignoring the fact that I, too, was a passenger and that a
> senseless regulation was preventing me, too, from reaching my
> destination. Finally, at approximately 09:50 AM, the captain said he
> had no other option but to call the police, whereupon two officers of
> the Hong Kong Police boarded the aircraft, forcibly lifted me out of
> my seat and removed me from the plane. Jim Fruchterman, a member of
> our group, documented the incident with his camera and added a
> narrative of his own to the photographs, before posting the story on
> his blog
> (http://benetech.blogspot.com/2008/09/dragonair-hauls-rami-off-
> plane.html), which I have attached for your review. Once I was in the
> passenger lounge, I asked the Dragonair staff to contact the Israeli
> Consulate in Hong Kong (since I was travelling on my Israeli passport)
> and, failing that, to notify the Israel Embassy in Beijing of the
> incident. There was no answer at the Consulate, and the Dragonair
> staff refused to call the Embassy. The Dragonair staff did contact
> Omer Kurlender, El-Al's Security Manager at Hong Kong International
> Airport, who promptly came to see me. It is with his encouragement
> that I am writing this letter. However, more importantly, I also fell
> into conversation with Mr. Alaric Youd, an officer of the Hong Kong
> Police, who was the only person throughout this ordeal willing to say
> publicly what I had suspected all along, namely, that the reason
> Dragonair insists that blind passengers sit in window seats only is
> their fear that, in the case of an emergency evacuation during takeoff
> or landing, a blind passenger seated in an aisle seat would inevitably
> impede the rush of all sighted passengers toward to exits. If this is
> not the reason for Dragonair's "blind by the window" regulation,
> please let me know what the real reason is. May I take this
> opportunity to thank Officer Youd for his moral support and to appeal
> to you and to the Hong Kong police authorities that he not be punished
> for his candor and honesty.
>
> Eventually, the Dragonair staff told me they wold schedule me on the
> next flight to Fuzhou, this time on China Eastern Airlines. I wondered
> if history was about to repeat itself, but when I arrived at the China
> Eastern Airlines counter, the reservationist immediately asked me,
> "would you like an aisle seat, a middle seat or a window seat", and
> added, "we have no regulation about where blind passengers should
> sit".
>
> On the second occasion, on September 28, we were visiting the Great
> Wall. Like most members of our group, I decided not to walk up the
> Great Wall but rather chose the more leisurely transportation option
> of an individualized cable seat much akin to seats on ski lifts
> familiar to blind skiers or to seats on Ferris wheels much loved by
> blind visitors to fairgrounds throughout the world. However, upon
> arriving at the admission gate, imagine, again, my astonishment when
> the gate agent barred my entry, declaring, "no blind people allowed".
> Alleging, here, too, that the issue was one of safety, the officials
> in charge urged me to ride up the Great Wall on what they called "the
> special cable car for the blind" which was located some distance away.
> Having no alternative, I decided to try the so-called "special cable
> car for the blind", although I suspected this was nothing more than a
> ruse by the officials at the Great Wall to get rid of me; and indeed,
> I was right. A sign at the embarkation point for the "special cable
> car for the blind" read "free cable car for leg disabled". But not
> only that: the place was deserted and the "free cable car for leg
> disabled" was not in operation, presumably pressed into service on;y
> when advanced notice is given of the arrival of a disabled tourist.
>
> Mr. President, within the past three months China has staged what are
> generally regarded as the most impressive Olympic and Paralympic games
> ever. While the whole world was watching you showed us the best China
> has to offer. However, the two experiences I have related to you lead
> me to wonder if China's Olympic and Paralympic face was only its
> public face, and if there lurks, behind that public face, a hidden
> reality which, at leat for the blind and disabled, tells a different
> story far less wholesome and far less welcoming.
>
> The fact is that the executives at Dragonair have no empirical
> evidence, only false assumptions, that blind airline passengers in an
> emergency evacuation would not be able to find the exits as quickly
> and efficiently as their sighted counterparts. Surely, any of the
> blind Paralympics competitors could have convinced those executives
> that their argument is deeply flawed. I myself would be happy to
> demonstrate to them how fast the average blind person can move when
> necessary. And what about emergency evacuations from an airline cabin
> plunged into darkness or filling with smoke? In that situation, blind
> passengers would not only move faster than those around them but would
> be able to take charge and lead fellow passengers to safety. But
> underlying Dragonair's "blind by the window" regulation is not only a
> false premise about the physical abilities of the blind but a far more
> disturbing implication, namely, that the lives of blind passengers are
> not as important as the lives of sighted passengers, and that their
> need for survival is somehow not as urgent.
>
> As for the exclusionary policy of the authorities at the Great Wall,
> it, too, reflects outdated notions about blindness and blind people
> that utterly false and should be condemned by modern societies
> everywhere. Behind the advice give to me to use the "free cable car
> for leg disabled" is the traditional thinking that blind persons not
> only have dysfunctional eyes but dysfunctional legs, too. Again, one
> must ask how this myth still survives in a country which has just
> concluded hosting the Paralympic games? Moreover, the "free cable car
> for leg disabled" reflects that pernicious tendency, on the part of so
> many authorities, to always opt for segregative solutions rather than
> inclusive and integrative solutions, when seeking to accommodate the
> perceived needs of people with disabilities.
>
> Mr. President: it is my understanding that China has recently ratified
> the International Convention on the Rights of People with
> Disabilities. May I suggest that, if you wish to comply with the
> spirit of that Convention, you immediately embark upon a national
> drive to eliminate prejudice, disr\crimination, low expectation and
> paternalism toward people with disabilities from all public life in
> China, and replace them with a belief in the abilities of people with
> disabilities and with policies that demand equality of opportunities
> for them in the mainstream of Chinese society. I know that you have
> the capacity to this because, during my visit to the Shanghai World
> Financial Center, I detected notations in Braille on the elevator
> panels of that magnificent building, all you now need to do is to
> inculcate that same message of welcome, equal access and complete
> social integration in such unenlightened companies as Dragonair, at
> such national monuments as the Great Wall, and everywhere else in your
> otherwise wonderful country.
>
> Sincerely,
> Avraham (Rami) Rabby.
> LIUJunyi Wed, Oct 22, 2008 at 10:03 AM
> To: Avraham Rabby
> Dear Mr. Rabby,
> Thank you very much for your letter. We are very sorry to hear about
> your unfortunate encounter in China. We are sure that these are
> individual incidents that doesn't always happen to all disabled
> persons.
> I want to ask you whether you have send the letter to relevant
> authorities in China?
>
> With Best Regards,
> Ms.LIU Junyi
> Third Secretary
> Embassy of China in Israel
> 222, Ben Yehuda St. Tel Aviv
> Tel: 00972-3-5467312
> Fax: 00972-3-5467251
> Mobile: 00972-52-8392699
> Email: assist_dashi@hotmail.com
>
>
> ________________________________
> Date: Thu, 16 Oct 2008 18:55:57 +0200
> From: avrabby@gmail.com

________________________________________________________________
> Avraham Rabby Wed, Oct 22, 2008 at 6:26 PM
> Draft To: LIUJunyi
> Daer Ms. Liu Junyi:
>
> Thank you so much for your letter responding to the letter I had sent
> to President Hu Jintao.
> I am afraid we are not talking, here, about an "individual incident
> that doesn't always happen to all disabled persons." The basis for the
> Dragonair incident was a company policy by Dragonair designed to apply
> to all blind passengers, not just myself. Since no other Chinese
> airline seems to have the same policy, Dragonairall blind and
> otherwise physicsally disabled visitors use the cable system, not just
> myself.
> I did not send my letter to any government authorities in Hong Kong
> or China, since it was extremely difficult to obtain the necessaary
> email addresses. Therefor, I should be mosst grateful to you would
> work to persuaid both the Dragonair management and thheauthorities at
> the Great Wall to change their policies and adopt and more enlightened
> posture to people with disabilities in line with the Intetnational
> /Convention On Tthe Rights Of People With Disabilities which was
> ratyified by the Peoples Republic of China on August 1, 2008.
>
> Sincerely,
> Avraham
>
>