Aviation regulator DGCA has told the Supreme Court that disabled persons would be given priority for transportation over others in cases of unforseen situations demanding off-loading of passengers from aircraft. The Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) told a bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan that the payload capacity of an aircraft might change due to technical aspects or weather conditions and, in such cases, the airlines would give priority to persons with disablity for transportation.
“It is pertinent to mention that the payload capacity of aircraft may change due to technical aspects such as change of aircraft, restriction due to airfield, change in weather conditions.
“If such unforeseen circumstances is encountered by operator and flight is permissible with lesser payload i.e. lesser number of passengers, the first priority will be of persons with disability for transportation,” the DGCA said in its compliance affidavit in the top court.
The matter was listed for hearing before the court today and Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand told the bench that they have done “whatever they could do” in this matter. The apex court has posted the matter for hearing after three weeks. The court is hearing a plea filed by a disabled woman who was off-loaded from aircraft in 2012.
The court had earlier ordered the airline to pay Rs 10 lakh as damages to her. The DGCA, in its affidavit, has also said that the concerns raised by the petitioner regarding assistive devices weighing upto 15 kg free of charge as additional baggage have been allowed, subject to the aircraft limitation. “If the passengers prefer to use their own wheelchair, they shall be permitted to use it provided the wheelchair confirms to specifications as laid down by Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee,” it said.
DGCA also said that feedback received were shared with operators for improvement in their services. “CISF has submitted that X-ray screening of prosthetic limbs is mandatory as per existing Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) circulars and it can be done only by removing the prosthetic limb and passing it through an X-ray machine. As per CISF BCAS circular, there is no scope for leniency in respect of disabled persons (regarding this),” it said.
DGCA also said optimum implementation of international civil aviation security measures shall be integrated into the design and construction of new facilities and alterations to the existing facilities at an airports. “It is humbly submitted that the directions of this court have been complied with by DGCA,” the affidavit said.
Regarding the petitioner’s suggestion to have free ambulift (assistance to differently-abled persons to board a flight) and towable ramps, the DGCA submitted that provision of towable ramp have been already been introduced at places where such facility is not available.