Asia-Pacific Feb 27, 2012
It would appear that all the Indian airlines are vying with each other to enter the Hall of Shame.
Close on the heels of the shameful incident on February 19, 2012 where Spice Jet offloaded a passenger with cerebral palsy, Jeeja Ghosh, comes another incident, this time involving Indigo Airlines. Tony Kurian, 22, a blind student of the development studies programme at the TataInstitute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, has been repeatedly denied tickets by Indigo because of his disability, and his tale of woe goes back to October 2011.
“I first tried to book tickets on October 17, 2011 for a flight to Cochin on June 22, 2012. I was refused a ticket. The airline told me that ‘a blind passenger may not avail of their services unless accompanied by an escort or a guide dog.’ I tried to point out that this was in violation of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) guidelines, but they were adamant about what they called their airline policy,” says a bitter Kurian.
Then, following the uproar over the ill-treatment meted out to Jeeja Ghosh inKolkata by SpiceJet, Kurian tried again on February 23. “I was hopeful that the Kolkata incident and the outrage it generated would have cured Indigo of such policies, but I was humiliated again, and a ticket was refused to me on the very same grounds.”
The DGCA Guidelines clearly state, “Many persons with disabilities do not require constant assistance for their activities. Therefore, if the passenger declares independence in feeding, communication with reasonable accommodation, toileting and personal needs, the airlines shall not insist for the presence of an escort.” It further states, “All airlines shall provide necessary assistance to persons with disabilities/ impairment who wish to travel alone without an escort.”
Indigo violated the DGCA rules in their treatment of him, says Kurian. “Instead of honouring their obligation to provide me all ‘necessary assistance’, they denied me even the basic right to travel independently.”
When contacted, Indigo spokesperson Sakshi Batra said this was “a training issue and not a policy one.” She added, “Indigo’s policies are disabled-friendly. The company will investigate and find out who was responsible for conveying this wrong picture. We will also get in touch with the passenger to address his concerns.”
After DNA’s conversation with the Indigo spokesperson, Indigo president Aditya Ghosh wrote to Kurian, apologising for the incident. “At IndiGo, we have no such policy that discourages blind passengers from traveling with us or insisting that blind passengers are accompanied by guide dogs!…I can only personally apologise to you,” says the letter. After this apology from the company president, Kurian tried three times to book tickets on February 25, again without success. And at the time of going to press, Kurian still did not have a ticket from Indigo, an apology from the Indigo president notwithstanding.
Besides Spice Jet and now Indigo, earlier in September 2011, GoAir had stopped a blind woman from boarding a flight, as had Kingfisher in May 2011. Clearly, the malaise of insensitivity towards people with disabilities is not a rarity in the aviation sector.