A physically disabled woman flyer has alleged she had to "crawl" to the passenger coach after deboarding an Air India plane as the carrier failed to arrange a wheel chair for her due to "security" reasons, a charge denied by the airline.
The government-run airline claimed a wheel chair was provided to the passenger at the aircraft's doorstep itself.
The incident took place when Anita Ghai, a Delhi University associate professor and a disability rights activist, landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) in Delhi on an Alliance Air flight (Air India's regional arm) from Dehradun on Friday evening.
Taking to Facebook after the incident, Ghai wrote:
I boarded this flight with four of my colleagues. Despite my repeated request, the (air) hostess did not cognize my requirement for a wheel chair after reaching. The flight reached at 7:30 PM. I waited patiently with one of my friends. At 8:15 PM, we realise that there was no chance of (getting) a wheel chair. The (passenger) coach came at 8.30 PM after repeated requests from the flight commander. Since security reasons are critical they made me CRAWL to go to the coach.
At a time when people are debating whether the disabled should be called ‘viklaang’ or ‘Divyang’, as suggested by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, stories like this one show how much real work is needed to address the issues faced by the disabled in India.
As Ghai writes, “They love to humiliate us as we are DIVYUNG. We are divine bodies, so crawling is the mode with which we can go anywhere,”
While Ghai has filed a formal complaint, Air Alliance, a wholly owned subsidiary of Air India, has completely denied the activist's statement.
"We strongly deny the statement...We at Air India give utmost importance to passenger's safety and comfort," an Air India statement said.
The flight which operated on ATR aircraft landed in Delhi from Dehradun. Since it was parked at a distant bay it took some time to bring the wheel chair, the airline said.
"Since passengers were getting down from the aircraft, our support staff actively helped the passenger to come out of the plane and the wheelchair was provided at the doorstep," Air India said.
"We deeply regret any inconvenience caused to the passenger," it added.