Wednesday, June 20, 2007

2007, Rajiv Rajan

Private airline offloads wheelchair-bound man


Rema Nagarajan, TNN Jun 19, 2007, 01.01am IST


NEW DELHI: When NGO activist Rajiv Rajan, a cerebral palsy patient, was invited from Chennai to attend an urgent meeting in Delhi, little did he know of the airlines' bias against the disabled.


He uses a wheelchair and had flown earlier. But not this time. Rajan was booked to fly on an Air Sahara flight on Monday morning. But he was not allowed to board the aircraft by the airline staff as it deemed that he was not fit to fly and that he needed an escort or a "fitness to fly" certificate. Rajan explained he was a frequent flyer, but the staff wouldn't relent.

The staff of the airline - which has been taken over by Jet Airways and internally branded as Jet Lite - demanded to see the boarding passes of Rajan's previous air-trips and tried to push his wheelchair out of the airline office.


Rajan told TOI: "They even called in the police to send me out of the airport. A couple of policemen recognised me as a frequent flyer and tried to intervene on my behalf but the airline staff refused to listen."


And the flight (S2-142), scheduled at 6.35 am, took off leaving Rajan behind. Rajan, a sub-committee member of the National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities had been invited to a Trust meeting in Delhi.

The meeting was to discuss and plan national level training for local level committee members across 593 districts of the country - Rajan even explained the purpose of his travel to the airline staff, but to no avail.

After the scheduled flight left, and upon Rajan's insistence, the airline staff finally got in touch with the director of Rajan's NGO, Vidya Sagar, which works with children and young adults with neurological impairment. Finally, light dawned upon them and they offered to fly him by a different airline. However, Spice Jet which was approached, refused to issue him a ticket.

When contacted by TOI, a Jet spokesman claimed that Sahara was actually not under Jet's administrative control.

He, however, later offered to give a reaction to the incident the next day. A Spice Jet spokesman denied the incident altogether.


He said no wheelchair passenger had been denied a ticket by the airline on Monday. An angry convener of the Disability Rights Group, Javed Abidi, said: "The conduct of the employees of Air Sahara and Spice Jet amounts to violation of Rajan's constitutional rights to a life of dignity, equal opportunities, non-discrimination and to his freedom of movement. We are going to file a complaint in the consumer court and ensure that Rajan gets justice."


He added that this was not an isolated incident but one of several such similar incidents of marginalisation faced by the disabled. "Most of the mushrooming private airlines seem to have no disability policy in place and there have been several such complaints. They seem to associate wheelchairs with illness, and so, wheelchair users have the toughest time," he said.



http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2007-06-19/india/27965622_1_airline-staff-jet-airways-air-sahara