Sunday, February 26, 2012

Indigo refuses ticket to Visually Impaired passenger thinking he can't travel alone

Dear Friends,

This time, Tony Kurian, a 22 year old Visually Impaired student of TATA Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai faced discrimination from an airline which is known for its consumer friendly policies especially the persons with disabilities. 

Indigo is the only low-cost carrier that provides manual ramp to board the flight hence is popular among the persons with disabilities and the elderly.  Therefore, it is little surprising that they denied ticket to a visually impaired student on the pretext that he can not fly unless accompanied by an escort or a guide dog! Despite an apology, the student has been unable to book his tickets. 

It all boils down to one single issue, that is- the DGCA's CAR is not being implemented in its right earnest. The training issues are not being addressed by the airliners. What our colleague Joe Chopra in her article in The Hindu points out is equally true that due to our policies of exclusion in education - from where the right integration and acceptance begins- we are at this stage that people are required to be trained and sensitized on disability issues. Ms. Joe stresses that typical children who grow up in inclusive classrooms learn — at the very least — that disability is nothing to be afraid of. They learn that people may look different, yet can still be their friends. That a person who can't speak can still communicate. That you can't judge a book by its cover and that everyone has both strengths and weaknesses.

The incident further prove the fact that only 1 in 30 gets reported while others keep fighting/suffering in silence. We must create systems to check this menace and it can happen when we speak up for our rights and demand accountability from the service providers.

Here is the report from the DNA on this issue:

IndiGo suspends staff for refusing ticket to disabled

DNA India | YOGESH PAWAR | Feb 28, 2012

MUMBAI : Following DNA’s report on Sunday of how a visually-impaired Tata Institute of Social Sciences student Tony Kurian, 22, was repeatedly denied a flight ticket unless he agreed to be accompanied by an escort or a guide dog, IndiGo has suspended, with immediate effect, the outsourced call centre executives, who repeatedly refused to facilitate the tickets.

A statement from airline president Aditya Ghosh says IndiGo had spoken to Kurian and had assured him that “IndiGo, has no such policy that discourages visually challenged passengers from travelling with us or insisting that they are accompanied by escorts or guide dogs.”

“It is indeed a shocking incident and this kind of unacceptable behaviour calls for immediate action, including a training intervention.Hence, we have internally circulated an email reiterating the Directorate General of Civil Aviation guidelines (on disabled passengers) to our staff.”

Pointing out that IndiGo is the only airline that has a boarding ramp to allow wheelchairs and stretchers to be taken into the aircraft, the statement also mentions the ‘auto-step bus’ to assist them and senior citizens.

“We regret the inconvenience caused to Kurian, and hope he will see this experience as an aberration and not the rule at IndiGo,” the statement said.

Ghosh also mailed Kurian on Saturday apologising for the incident. But, the apology was in variance with the call centre staff who refused Kurian tickets three times. Irked such an “unacceptable behaviour”, the airline has taken strong action against the “errant” call centre executives by suspending them with immediate effect.

When DNA spoke to Kurian, he said he was glad that his stand was vindicated. “I want to thank the airline for such prompt and stern action.”

Source: DNA India

Here is the link to another media coverage of Indigo's denial to the visually impaired flyer in DNA Syndication

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