Indian-origin Singapore residents Divya George, her husband and five-year-old daughter were going for a three-day vacation to Phuket on Thursday morning.
However, what the family did not anticipate was that they would be mistreated by the airlines, with the Captain even insisting that they disembark.
The captain of Singapore Airlines' low-cost airline Scoot refused to fly with the couple's daughter with special needs, citing safety reasons, alleges Divya.
Divya, originally from Kochi in Kerala, told TNM over phone that the captain of the aircraft refused to fly with her her 5-year-old, who has a condition called muscular dystrophy. Narrating the ordeal, Divya said:
"Our daughter cannot sit alone in her seat, if she does that, she'll fall off and hurt her back. This is not the first time we are flying with her and none of the other airlines have refused to fly with her. I keep her in my lap throughout the flight and they provide me with an infant seat belt. But this time, the Captain outrightly refused to fly with her on my lap and insisted that she sits in her seat."
The family refused to deplane, and resisted for more than an hour. There were heated arguments with the crew and finally the plane took off.
"During the take off, my husband and I held on to our daughter from either sides, so that she won't fall off. Soon after the take off, I took her in my lap," Divya added.
The crew did not even provide them with an infant seat belt, Divya said.
Divya said that despite her explaining to the crew members of her daughter's condition, the captain continued to insist that her child either sit in her own seat, or the family must deplane.
"The Captain in fact, did not even come out for an hour. He refused to speak to us. Finally I went up to his cabin and that's when he spoke to me. Even then, he closed the cabin screen so that the other passengers could not see him. He said that we should let my daughter sit in her seat and while I explained that she could hurt herself by doing so, he told me that it would be the airline's responsibility if anything happens to her," Divya said.
Divya said that she frequently flies down to her native place Kochi with her daughter, but has never faced such a situation before. Divya has now decided to take up the issue with the airlines.
"I want to take it up with the airlines, if it is in their policy to not fly with a special needs child, I want to know about it. When no other airlines have a problem with this, why only this one?" Divya asked.
The flight, that was scheduled for take off at 7 45 am, finally took off a full one hour and 15 minutes late.
When TNM reached out to Singapore Airlines, they maintained that the airlines did not have a policy of refusing to fly with a special needs child.
They added: "We are unable to comment as it did not happen on a flight operated by Singapore airlines."
Scoot partnered with Singapore Airlines and SilkAir in the Singapore Airlines Group family in 2017.
Scoot later issued a statement on the matter:
"Infant seat belts are available for guests up to two years old as part of safety reguations.As the passenger is five years old, for her safety consideration, infant seat belts may not suffice. She has to be strapped to her own seat with the aircraft seatbelt for take-off and landing in accordance with established cabin safety procedures. Scoot recognises however that the guest's physical condition may require additional consideration for comfort. Accordingly, we have made a one-time arrangement to provide a certified booster seat for the guest to ensure her return journey is more comfortable while still adhering to cabin safety procedures. We have reached out to the guest to explain the arrangements that have been made."
Last week, an SIA flight from Singapore to Kolkata reportedly faced technical issues, causing distress to the passengers. While the flight took off a good three hours after scheduled time, passengers reported that they were made to sit in the aircraft when the air conditioning system was being repaired.
"Everyone waited patiently until we realised this wasn't going to get fixed anytime soon. Half an hour had passed with zero ventilation in an aircraft full of passengers...When we confronted the cabin crew, they had no answers, rudely shut us up, threatened to call the cops to arrest us, and said 'we are in the same situation as you are, don't ask us, we don't know anything'. If we won't ask them then who are we supposed to ask? They were not letting us deboard the plane and they weren't being able to immediately fix the air-conditioning problem and they weren't able to give us any answers," Chandni Doulatramani, a passenger wrote on Facebook on Tuesday.
The Times of India quoted an SIA spokesperson as saying: "SQ 516 operating from Singapore to Kolkata on June 8, 2018, experienced technical issues on ground resulting in a 2-hour-52-minutes delay. SIA sincerely apologises for the inconvenience caused to the passengers on board."