IndiGo pilot suspended for misbehaving with disabled passenger
The suspension of an IndiGo Airlines pilot for misbehaving with a wheelchair-using passenger has been welcomed by many disability rights activists. The airlines company and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation took immediate action against the pilot and have suspended his license for three months. Disability rights activists say that such tough action is needed to protect the rights of disabled travellers.
In India, there have been numerous incidents where travellers with disabilities have been discriminated against, especially by airlines. Wheelchairs are often not provided on time and airline staffers are often clueless about the needs of people with disabilities. One recent case is that of an IndiGo Airlines pilot who was called out for harassing and abusing a disabled passenger and her daughter. He has been suspended for three months for his behaviour.
What unfolded on air
The incident took place on 14 January when the complainant Supriya Unni Nair, a journalist, was travelling with her mother, who is a wheelchair user on a Chennai-Bengaluru flight. Supriya later said that the pilot was angry when Supriya requested wheelchair assistance for her mother.
Supriya had mentioned this need earlier and wheelchair assistance was provided in the ticket as well. But the cabin crew refused and the pilot also started abusing them, alleged Supriya. She said that the pilot, Jayakrishna, even threatened dire consequences and said they would spend a night in jail.
Supriya soon took to Twitter to share her shocking experience. She tagged IndiGo Airlines and the company was quick to respond. So did the the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). They said that the pilot would not fly for the next three months.
Reactions from disability rights experts
Dr Satendra Singh, the prominent disability rights advocate, had also faced harassment when he requested for a wheelchair while booking the ticket. The request was made through his travel agent. He said the airline wanted details like when and how he was disabled. “They even asked if I had a rod in my leg. Isn’t that the job of security officials to find out? The DGCA guidelines clearly state the guidelines for disabled passengers. In spite of travelling often, I have never faced such questions. All this is now happening due to lack of sensitisation and training for airline staffs”.
Smita Sadasivam, a prominent disability rights activist from Chennai and a frequent flyer says such incidents occur far too often despite various efforts by disability groups. She says tough penalties are the only way to deter misbehaviour of this kind.
“Disability groups have been engaging with DGCA for more than a decade regarding such issues. But it still keeps happening at the airport as well as on-board. Stricter punishments must be notified for the staffs who discriminate persons with disabilities. This must also be displayed at the airport and board seat card”, she says.
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