Disability Rights Alliance


Saturday, 28 February 2009

2009, Aiswarya Rao

Airlines and Disability

from: Aiswarya Rao aiswarya.rao@gmail.com
to: customerrelations@jetairways.com
cc: das@dgca.nic.in,  dri@dgca.nic.in,  scd@tn.nic.in
date: Fri, Feb 27, 2009 at 4:32 AM
subject: Incident on 9W 0739 – 25th Feb 09


I boarded Jet Airways flight no: 9W 0739 on 25th February 09 from Delhi to Chennai at about 10:30 p.m. ( 3 hours delayed).

I am a physically challenged person and mobile with a pair of calipers and crutches. I was travelling alone and I requested wheelchair assisstance for alighting the flight of steps that lead to the aircraft, as I usually do whenever I fly.

I was assigned seat 25D on that day. This is the last but one row from the rear exit. I requested the stewardess whether I may sit in the last row as it had more leg room. She obliged as there were no one seated there already and said that she would request anyone who may turn up for the seat to exchange with me. I was happy with the assisstance given and I sat in the window seat on the right side -last row. I sat by the window so that I may enjoy the view of the city lights when we take off and land. It is also less bothersome to other passengers if they have to cross over my stretched legs to move to seats inside.

After everyone had boarded, I discovered that the seat I was sitting in was not assigned to anybody. In about 5 minutes one of the stewards  – Mr. Mickey, came up to me and asked me to shift to the aisle seat. I overheard conversation between him and his supervisor just minutes ago that ‘the lady in the wheelchair’ needs to be seated in the aisle seat. When I asked him the reason, why I should shift to the aisle seat and he said that it was Jet Airways Safety 
Requirement, that disabled passengers be seated only in the aisle seats. I wondered why, and he answered that it was so that in an emeregency if a disabled passenger has to be evacuated, this seating will enable that they are evacuated.

I thought that the explanation was incredulous, as I have travelled on numerous occassions previously, several times at the window and I have never been given this reason for not being seated at the window. I clarified that I am not a wheelchair bound person and that the seating policy if it did exist did not apply to me, as I would be able to move out myself in the event of an emergency. Mr. Mickey said that he would get back to me. I smiled.

In a few minutes he returned with the same line, asking me to get up and to be seated in the aisle. Then he asked” What is your problem?” I said that I had “no problem”. I further clarified that I had polio myelitis. He asked me to shift my seat. I declined for the reason that I had already given him. He smiled and said that he understood and said that he would get back again.

In returned again in a few more minutes and asked me very politely, if I could just get up and sit in the aisle for the take off and then get back to the window seat after that. I was frankly irritated by this time. But I put up a quiet front and again asked why I should do so, as it is causing me a lot of discomfort. He agreed it was causing discomfort, apologised for the same, but insisted that I shift myself into the aisle seat. I was really curious this time and I asked him again what this security requirement is all about. He simply maintained that it was for all passengers who used a wheel chair for getting up the aircraft it was the Jet Airways seating policy and a safety regulation.

I told him to show me the safety instruction on seating passengers who used a wheelchair to be seated by the aisle only and not at the window. Until then I would not shift.

After that I was not bothered. Subsequently Mr. Mickey was courteous to me and served me my dinner without reference to the previous conversation.

Is it really Jet Airways seating policy to seat “wheelchair passengers” only in the aisle and are they discriminated from sitting near the window seat? Also there is a big difference between ‘wheelchair bound’ passengers and passengers who use a wheelchair only in airports for transport into the aircraft. Again, I am not a ‘lady in the wheelchair’, as identified by one of the main steward to Mr. Mickey which I overheard.

I hope Jet Airways is more sensitive to physically challenged passengers. I am also a member of the Tamilnadu State Coordination Committee for the Disabled and this attitude of airlines crew is disturbing.

Further the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) Section 3 Series ‘M’ Part I – Carriage of Physically Challenged passengers by Air issued by the Office of the Director General of Civil Aviation, New Delhi (dated 1st May 2008) states in its clause 7. 2.1 that “passengers with reduced mobility including the blind shall not be restricted to any particular cabin or seating areas, except when it is done for safety of passengers and avoid interference with evacuations or due to physical limitations of the aircraft”. If at all, I was seated away from the exit near the window and would not be an interference to evacuations!!

Expecting a clarification on the seating policy of Jet Airways which if it does exist, appears to be very unfair and going against the CAR issued by the DGCA.


from: customerrelations@jetairways.comto: aiswarya.rao@gmail.comdate: Fri, Feb 27, 2009 at 10:58 AMsubject: Fw: Incident on 9W 0739 – 25th Feb 09mailed-by: jetairways.com
Dear Ms Rao,This mail is with reference to youremail of date.Kindly allow us to examine the issueraised by you and we will surely revert to youMay we kindly request you to bear withus in the interim period.Yours Sincerely
R Viswanathan Customer Relations
—– Forwarded by CustomerRelations/Litolier/Jetairways on 02/27/2009 10:51 AM —–