Disability Rights Alliance


Wednesday, 18 March 2009

2009, Hari Venkat

Booked himself on wheelchair, passenger denied flight

Posted: Mar 17, 2009 at 0128 hrs IST

He says luggage ejected, officials said no aide to take him on board; airline says he was in washroom before takeoff

Mumbai : A wheelchair-bound passenger alleged that he was denied entry to a flight and his luggage ejected on Sunday evening, even though he had informed the airline while booking his ticket that he would be on a wheelchair.

Hari Venkat (38) had booked a Go Air flight from Mumbai to Kochi to undergo spinal treatment. He cannot walk.

Go Air denied the allegation, saying Venkat was not flown because he had insisted on using the washroom minutes before takeoff. Venkat eventually left on a Spice Jet flight to Kochi the next morning.

His sister Anju said the Go Air staff told him, “We’ll deplane your luggage as we don’t have an assistant to take you on a wheelchair.”

Only last week, Newsline reported that a woman passenger had been asked to remove her salwar as she was wearing metallic calipers. While the woman managed to fight her way through and refused to remove her salwar, Venkat was helpless as he could not board the aircraft without aid from the airline’s helpers.

Venkat reached the airport at 3:15 for a 4:40 flight. He got the boarding pass; it was after he had proceeded towards security check that the ordeal began.

“It was terrible the way they treated me. When I arrived at the terminal, they had some problems with their systems and that delayed the boarding pass. And the assistant they gave me was an inept 18-year-old,” Venkat said from Kochi.

“At the security check I needed my boarding card, so I had to wait while the assistant they provided me kept chatting with someone. Eventually I had to shout to get myself through security check. By the time I reached the gate, an executive told me I couldn’t get in.”

Anju said passengers behind her brother passed by him and got on the aircraft while Hari waited for the airline’s assistant to take him on board. “After he was refused entry, he called up and said that they (airline staff) did not even apologise or offer a reimbursement,” said Anju.

The flight was not delayed. When Venkat was told he could not fly, it was 3:30pm, with over an hour left for takeoff.

Hari said an airline executive told him, “Talk to the supervisor as I don’t work for you.”

A circular dated May 1, 2008, from the DGCA to all passenger airlines says, “No airline shall refuse to carry persons with disability or persons with reduced mobility and their assistive aids/devices, escorts and guide dogs including their presence in the cabin, provided such persons or their representatives, at the time of booking and /or check-in for travel, inform the airlines of their requirement.”

Go Air had an explanation: “The passenger had a GoAir porter for assistance all through check-in and then into the security hold. The passenger insisted on using the washroom even though they were repeatedly informed about the delay that they were causing to the flight. All mandatory on-air and personal requests were made. However, the passenger showed no inclination to hasten the boarding process and hence it resulted in a gate no-show, since the flight was ready for take off,” said a spokesperson for the airline.