Disability Rights Alliance


Monday, 14 August 2017


By Satish Nandgaonkar
Aug 14, 2017

Indigo Airlines was at the receiving end of social media ire after a 29-year-old differently-abled activist, lodged a strong protest against the carrier for allocating him a broken wheelchair when he landed in Mumbai on Sunday morning.

"Extremely disappointing that I was brought down the plane in a broken wheelchair by Indigo6E DELMUM 6E 167 - Big safety threat," Nipun Malhotra tweeted, along with pictures of a damaged spoke of the wheelchair's rim, causing a flutter on social media.

According to Malhotra, they were alighting from the Delhi-Mumbai flight, which arrived at 9:30 am on Sunday, when he noticed the broken wheelchair. "I had my personal attendant travelling with me. When we were coming down the ramp, the wheelchair felt rickety and we noticed that a spoke was broken. It was an extremely scary experience. Once down, the airline staff even tried to stop us from taking pictures," said Malhotra, who is a co-founder and CEO of Nipman Foundation.

The Foundation runs Wheels for Life initiative which encourages donors to donate wheelchairs to the needy. Malhotra not only writes regularly on disability issues, his efforts also led to Zomato incorporating `wheelchair access' filters and wheelchairs being made available at events like NH7 music festival and the Jaipur Literature Festival.

Meanwhile, Indigo's swiftly apologised on Twitter."We believe someone from our team has contacted you. We truly regret the experience and assure you we're treating this with utmost importance. Our passenger safety and com fort is extremely important for us," read a post by the Twitter handle.When contacted, Indigo spokesperson promised to issue a formal re sponse soon but the same was awaited at the time of going to press.

Incidentally, Indigo is one of the most preferred airlines for people with disabilities (PwDs). The carrier has received The Disability Matters Award Asia Pacific thrice, including in 2017.

"Indigo is also the preferred airline for many of us but I am sad that the standards have fallen. I want an unconditional apology from the airline, and it should come out with a Standard Operating Procedure to ensure that this does not happen ever again," Malhotra told Mumbai Mirror.

The incident comes less than a month after para-athlete Suvarna Raj took on Indigo for not allowing her to board the Delhi-Udaipur flight on July 19 claiming there was no time to scan her wheelchair before boarding.

Suvarna had won two medals at 2013 Para Table Tennis Open Championship held in Thailand and was also honoured by President Pranab Mukherjee with National Role Model and National Youth Awards in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

While Suvarna alleged that she reached the IGI airport in Delhi at 12.45 pm for the 1.25 pm flight but was not allowed to board by the airline staff.The airline, meanwhile, refuted her claim and said that she arrived at 12.54 pm, which was 10 minutes after they closed the boarding gate.

"Such things happen regularly to us. A broken spoke of a wheelchair can be dangerous for us who are wheelchair-bound, and Nipun is right in demanding more than a regret from the airline," said Raj, who was allegedly forced to sleep on the floor on the Nagpur-Nizamuddin Garib Rath Express in June after she was allocated an upper birth despite mentioning her disability while booking her tickets.

Indigo is one of India's leading low cost airlines with a 40 per cent market share as of June 2017.

It has a fleet of 136 aircraft, including 22 new generation A320 Neos.