Volume 9 Issue 6 - June 01, 2012

Indigo humiliates U.N. Special Rapporteur on Disability, refuses an aisle chair!

D.N.I.S. News Network, India: Yet another incident where a passenger with disability was humiliated and his rights blatantly violated by an airline! The victim was Shuaib Chalklen, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Disability. And the airline is none other than Indigo, which ironically sits on the esteemed Ministry of Civil Aviation Committee which is drafting a new set of guidelines on disability!

Chalklen was travelling on an Indigo airline flight from Mumbai to Delhi. The horror started at the check-in counter itself where he was asked why he was on a wheelchair! He was then asked to transfer from his customised wheelchair to a bad airport wheelchair. After some back and forth, he was allowed to take his own wheelchair till the security check point. He repeatedly insisted that he would require an aisle chair to transfer to his seat in the third row. He was not told even once that there were no aisle chairs available. At the boarding gate, he again insisted that he would require an aisle chair. When finally he was wheeled into the aircraft, it dawned on him that there was no aisle chair! This despite the fact that Indigo had an hour in hand from the time he checked in to arrange for an aisle chair or even borrow it from another airline.

Chalklen was then bodily lifted and transferred to the first row aisle seat which led to a further humiliating scene for him. The passenger whose seat it was refused to transfer to Chalklen’s seat in the third row. For more than 20 minutes, Chalklen watched in helplessness as the argument continued till it was finally resolved.

Indigo seemed indifferent to the incident and issued a standard apology. If a member of a Committee set up to draft guidelines for passengers with disabilities treats the issue with such indifference, it raises questions on the commitment of the entire Committee.

Disabled Rights Group (D.R.G.) has constantly maintained that the core of the problem is not the guidelines but the lack of political will to implement them. If the existing Carriage by Air Requirements (C.A.R.) for persons with disabilities is implemented and exemplary punishment is meted out, all airlines will fall in line. But will the Committee basking in all its glory and self-importance realise that?

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