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Airline reaches out to handicapped passenger after refusing him travel

Hari Venkat’s was one among several stories of wheelchair-bound passengers for whom travelling by air comes across as a major challenge because of the apathy shown by most of the airport employees who work for the airlines.

Written by Shashank Shekhar | Mumbai |
May 11, 2009 11:04:16 pm

Invites him on return journey after Newsline reported incident

Hari Venkat’s was one among several stories of wheelchair-bound passengers for whom travelling by air comes across as a major challenge because of the apathy shown by most of the airport employees who work for the airlines. Hari’s (38) luggage was deplaned and he was not allowed to board his flight by executives of a private low cost carrier Go Air even though he had informed the airline well in advance that he would be wheelchair bound.

According to Hari,the airline staff were extremely rude to him and paid no heed to the fact that he was wheelchair-bound. But Hari is happy now because soon after the plight faced by him was reported by Newsline on March 17,he got a call from Go Air’s relationship manager who persuaded him to fly Go Air on his return journey from Cochin to Mumbai on March 27. But a disgusted Hari had chosen another airline for his return journey.

“I got a call from the relationship manager of the airline and she heard my story. Coincidently even her husband suffers from a severe spinal problem and our doctors turned out to be the same. She insisted that I fly back to Mumbai on Go Air itself,” said Hari,a former athlete and a city-based leather manufacturer,who is currently using wheelchair because of a serious accident that affected his spinal chord and ligaments. According to him,he got a front row seat during his return journey. “When the aircraft landed at the Mumbai airport,a car came to receive me ,” he said.

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Hari said a Go Air employee told him that the entire airport staff of Go Air was called in for an emergency meeting at Go Air headquarters after his story appeared in Newsline.

“I was told by the airline employee that the two staff members who were rude to me —one at the check-in counter and another at the departure gate— were transferred to the luggage department,which is a sort of demotion,” he said. Apart from that,within 10 days he received a refund of Rs 20,000 from the airline for the ticket he had purchased to fly to Cochin.

“I did not want any rewards in return for what had happened to me. But this kind of problems should not happen to any passenger,” he said. According to Hari,one of the airline employees asked him to talk to the supervisor as he does not work for you.

They had even refused to talk or acknowledge him. A week before Hari’s story was reported,Newsline had reported another case of sheer insensitiveness shown by CISF personnel at the airport when they asked a polio-affected woman to remove her salwar as she was wearing metallic calipers.

“The passenger had a GoAir porter with him for his assistance all through check in and then into the security hold. The passenger insisted on using the washroom even though they were repeatedly informed about the delay caused to the departure of the flight. All mandatory on air and personal requests were made. However,the passenger showed no inclinations in hastening the boarding process and hence it resulted in a gate no show since the flight was ready for take off,” said Go Air officials.

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