Disability Rights Alliance


Sunday, 22 May 2011

2011, Shabnam Mansuri

Kingfisher crew offloads blind woman with kids
Airline makes them disembark from flight, leaves them unattended for nearly an hour and a half as aircraft takes off without them


MUMBAI : A private airline made a blind woman and her two children disembark from her connecting flight to Goa and left them unattended for nearly an hour and a half while the plane took off without them.
Adding insult to injury, the airline's staff allegedly told the woman that she could not travel with two kids because she was blind.

Shabnam Mansuri had flown in to Mumbai from Ahmedabad with sons Lukman (7) and 18-month-old Luftaan, and was on her way to Goa when the incident happened

Shabnam Mansuri (35) says the experience has made her realise the fallacy of thinking that she can be treated like everyone else despite her handicap.

On May 10, Mansuri was travelling with her sons Lukman (7) and 18-month-old Luftaan from Ahmedabad to Goa via Mumbai to meet her husband. Her tickets had been booked with Kingfisher Airlines. 

"I boarded the Kingfisher flight from Ahmedabad and reached Mumbai, from where I was supposed to take a connecting flight to Goa. 

I had barely taken a seat in the connecting flight around 12.30 pm when a crew member came and asked me to follow him. He also asked me to take my cabin baggage and kids with me.
Initially, I thought that he must be changing my seat, but realised something was amiss when he took me down some stairs," said Mansuri.

"I asked him why he was making me get off the plane but he refused to answer. When my kids and I got off, they closed the aircraft's doors and took off, leaving us standing there. 

One attendant told me later that I cannot travel with two kids as I am blind. I was shocked," she added. 
She kept telling the attendant that she had two young kids and needed to meet her husband in Goa, but to no avail.

Finally, close to 2 pm, a staff member came and told her that they would arrange for her to board a 4.40 pm flight to Goa.

"I did not want to bank on them anymore. I called my husband and he arranged for us to board another airline's 3.10 pm flight. 

My question is, how can they let me travel from Ahmedabad to Mumbai without any trouble and then say I cannot travel with two kids from Mumbai to Goa? I was travelling on the same airline in both cases," said Mansuri.

She said the experience was one of the worst she's had in her life. "I am blind but that doesn't mean they have the right to discriminate against me. 

I had paid the full fare and if they had some problems, they should have informed me before I boarded. My elder son is so traumatised by the incident, he says he does not want to fly anymore."

Husband reacts
Mansuri's husband, Samir, who is the Chairman of Blinds Dream, an NGO, wrote a letter to the airline to complain about the treatment meted out to her. 

A portion of the letter states, "Kingfisher officials told my wife that if she thought they were cruel, she shouldn't travel with them anymore."

"What the Kingfisher staff did to my wife is shameful. They had done something similar with me in 2005 (see box) and I will not let them get away this time. 

Flight tickets of Shabnam Mansuri and her two sons Lukman and Luftaan

They have replied to my letter but that is not enough. I will take this issue to the consumer court and will go to the Supreme Court if need be.

This is an insult to me and my family and I will not tolerate it under any circumstances," said Samir.

He alleged that he had come to know that his wife was made to disembark because of a VIP booking at the last moment, which led to the flight being overbooked. 

"If their company cannot handle blind people, they should declare that visually challenged people are not allowed to fly Kingfisher," he added. 

The Other Side

When MiD DAY contacted Kingfisher Airlines, they said they regretted the incident. Prakash Mirpuri, vice-president, corporate communications, Kingfisher Airlines Limited, said, "We are investigating the matter. 

In the meantime, we would like to convey our deep regret for the inconvenience that may have been caused inadvertently to our valued guests."

Earlier too

Dr Samir Mansuri, Shabnam's husband and a celebrity doctor who is also blind, had allegedly been insulted by Kingfisher Airlines in 2005 as well. According to Samir, he was travelling from Mumbai to Ahmedabad that year. 

"I was first in the queue to board the flight, but I was made to wait till all the other passengers boarded. When I went inside, they forced me to visit a washroom outside the aircraft even when I did not want to go.

They said they were doing that so I would't have to visit the airplane's loo when we were airborne. The crew told me that they could not allow me to use the aircraft's washroom as I am blind and there were female crew members on board," said Samir.

"I felt insulted and raised the issue in the media. Vijay Mallya then issued an apology for the indecent behaviour on the airline's part," he added.