Disability Rights Alliance


Monday, 27 February 2012

2012, Tony Kurian

IndiGo suspends staff for refusing ticket to disabled

MUMBAI : Following DNA’s report on Sunday of how a visually-impaired Tata Institute of Social Sciences student Tony Kurian, 22, was repeatedly denied a flight ticket unless he agreed to be accompanied by an escort or a guide dog, IndiGo has suspended, with immediate effect, the outsourced call centre executives, who repeatedly refused to facilitate the tickets.

A statement from airline president Aditya Ghosh says IndiGo had spoken to Kurian and had assured him that “IndiGo, has no such policy that discourages visually challenged passengers from travelling with us or insisting that they are accompanied by escorts or guide dogs.”

“It is indeed a shocking incident and this kind of unacceptable behaviour calls for immediate action, including a training intervention.Hence, we have internally circulated an email reiterating the Directorate General of Civil Aviation guidelines (on disabled passengers) to our staff.”

Pointing out that IndiGo is the only airline that has a boarding ramp to allow wheelchairs and stretchers to be taken into the aircraft, the statement also mentions the ‘auto-step bus’ to assist them and senior citizens.

“We regret the inconvenience caused to Kurian, and hope he will see this experience as an aberration and not the rule at IndiGo,” the statement said.

Ghosh also mailed Kurian on Saturday apologising for the incident. But, the apology was in variance with the call centre staff who refused Kurian tickets three times. Irked such an “unacceptable behaviour”, the airline has taken strong action against the “errant” call centre executives by suspending them with immediate effect.

When DNA spoke to Kurian, he said he was glad that his stand was vindicated. “I want to thank the airline for such prompt and stern action.”


Another airline snubs the disabled


MUMBAI 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, Jeeja Ghosh, because she suffered from cerebral palsy, comes another incident, this time involving Indigo Airlines. Tony Kurian, 22, a visually impaired student of the development studies programme at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, has been repeatedly denied tickets by Indigo because of his impairment, 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 thatthis 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 in Kolkata 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 visually challenged passengers from traveling with us or insisting that visually challenged 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 visually challenged woman from boarding a flight, as had Kingfisher in May 2011. Clearly, the malaise of insensitivity towards the disabled is not a rarity in the aviation sector.