Civil aviation regulator DGCA has proposed to make it mandatory for airlines to consult an airport doctor before denying boarding to a passenger with special needs.
The regulator’s move comes shortly after an incident at Ranchi Airport where India’s largest airline IndiGo refused to let a disabled teenager board its aircraft.
DGCA had slapped a penalty of Rs 5 lakh on IndiGo saying that the airline for the incident.
“Airline shall not refuse carriage of any person on the basis of disability. However, in case, an airline perceives that the health of such a passenger may deteriorate in-flight, the said passenger will have to be examined by a doctor- who shall categorically state the medical condition and whether the passenger is fit to fly or not,” the aviation regulator said in a draft proposal which is now open for public comments. It added that the airline should only take call based on the medical opinion.
Sources said that the DGCA was planning to further tighten the rules of the regulations and will make it mandatory for staff of airlines and airports to undergo compulsory sensitivity training on how to handle passengers with disability.
Defending the case at Ranchi, IndiGo had earlier said that the reason the airport manager at Ranchi didn’t allow the teenager to board the aircraft was because he was visibly in a state of panic which could have jeopardised the safety of the flight.
IndiGo CEO Ronojoy Dutta recently told Business Standard that the airline will not appeal against the penalty imposed by DGCA and take the incident as a learning opportunity.
While more mature markets like USA also allows airlines to de board passengers if it believes that the passenger poses a significant risk to the health or safety of others, it is mandatory for the airline, provide a written statement describing the reason within 10 days of the flight date.
For example, in 2013, a passenger with Tourette syndrome was not allowed to board a flight by US carrier JetBlue at Reagan National Airport because he said the word bomb close to 100 times.
But the country’s Air Carrier Access Act which prohibits discrimination in air travel due to disability makes it mandatory for all airlines to have a a Complaints Resolution Official (CRO).
A CRO is the airline’s expert on disability accommodation issues. Airlines are required to make one available to the passenger, at no cost, in person at the airport or by telephone if a passenger feels his or her rights are being violated.
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