In the aftermath of the Ranchi Airport incident, where low-cost airline IndiGo denied boarding to a specially-abled passenger, the country’s aviation safety regulator DGCA has moved to amend its rules to say that airlines cannot deny boarding to specially-abled people without seeking medical opinion on a passenger’s fitness to fly.
Last month, IndiGo disallowed a specially-abled child from boarding its Hyderabad-bound flight at Ranchi Airport citing potential threat to air safety. Following this, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) conducted an investigation into the incident that led to the airline being penalised Rs 5 lakh for “insensitive handling” of the issue.
In the proposed amendments to the civil aviation requirement on ‘carriage by air — persons with disability and/or persons with reduced mobility’, the DGCA has added a clause, which now reads: “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. After obtaining the medical opinion, the Airline shall take the appropriate call”.
The current clause on a standalone basis says that airlines can refuse carriage to any person on basis of disability if it opined that “transportation of such persons would or might be inimical to the safety of flight”. In such a case, airlines are bound to specify in writing the basis of such refusal.
The CURRENT clause on a standalone basis says airlines can refuse carriage to any person on basis of disability if it opined that “transportation of such persons would or might be inimical to the safety of flight”. In such a case, airlines are bound to specify in writing the basis of such refusal. The regulator had on May 28 said that to avoid such situations in the future, it would revisit its own regulations.
The regulator had on May 28 said that in order to avoid such situations in the future, it would revisit its own regulations, making it mandatory for airlines to take the airport doctor’s written opinion on the health of a passenger before making a decision to deny boarding.
At the time of penalising IndiGo, the DGCA had noted that the airline’s ground staff could have avoided the situation with a “more compassionate handling”, and ended up “exacerbating” the situation. Notably, IndiGo, which stood by its ground staff’s decision to deny boarding saying it was done in the interest of flight safety, is now planning to conduct an internal case study on how to better serve passengers with disabilities, especially when they are feeling distressed.