I remember it was Christmas vacations of 2007, Ms. Sminu Jindal was travelling to Bangkok for a family vacation with her husband, two minor children and a maid. She has been a frequent flier due to her professional commitments and probably never faced any problem earlier.
Ms. Jindal visited Thailand with her family on Jet Airways flight 9W064 on December 25 from Delhi to Bangkok in Business Class and also returned by the same airliner on January 01 2008.
At the time of boarding at Delhi Airport , the airline staff handed her over an indemnity bond with a dictate that unless she sign the same she would not be allowed to board the flight. The indemnity Bond said that she would not hold the Jet Airways responsible for any harm to her during the flight. The apathy, ignorance and lack of sensitivity and training on the part of airliner shocked her. She had been travelling all over the world as per the demands of her profession but for the first time an airline asked her to sign such a ridiculous bond before being allowed to fly.
She tore the bond they were waving at her and told them that she was of a firm mind and that she was a wheelchair user because of a road accident at the age of 11 that left her paraplegic. She also told them unless they make every heart patient and pregnant woman to sign a similar thing; she refused to be treated differently. The altercation spoiled her festive mood & vacation and caused her immense psychological discomfort. That was not all despite prior request which she always make for an aisle chair to be provided she was denied the same on the grounds that there was no provision for the same.
Her ordeal didn't end there. When she traveled by return sector flight on January 1, 2008 the airline again did not provide any aisle chair (a small wheelchair that can be used inside the aircraft) saying that they don’t have any provision for it nor they allowed her ultra modern collapsible wheelchair that could be easily folded and carried as handbag and fits well in to the cabin without causing disturbance to any co-passenger.
She stressed that such mobility devices are like a part of any disabled person’s body and give them freedom to move about with dignity. The ground staff was not even trained on how to talk to a passenger with disability. The staff often spoke to the attendant pushing the wheelchair about me rather than speaking to her. Not only the staff but also the Manager seemed to highly insensitive. She was surprised that if that was the state of affairs at Jet Airways who claimed to be disabled friendly then what would be the situation in other domestic airliners operating in the country.
On her return she took up the issue strongly with the DGCA through a complaint since the issue was not about her being treated like that, but how airlines still refuse to provide basic assistance and dignity to physically-challenged passengers despite rules, regulations, requirements and legal mandate in place that ensures dignified & equitable access to all. DGCA issued a notice to the JetAirways on 10 Jan 2008. JetAirways tendered a public apology and it was thought that that the issues will settle down and the airline will mends its ways.
Svayam thereafter actively participated in several rounds of making a Civil Aviation Requirement on the Carriage by Air of Persons with Disabilities in 2008-2009. Most suggestions put forward by Svayam were incorporated in the present CAR on Carriage of Persons with Disabilities. However, the ground realities have not changed since then and we continue to see that several airlines continue to flout the DGCA's CAR with impunity.
Here are some of the media coverage on the issue in January 2008:
Disability Rights DLU: http://disabilityrightsdlu.blogspot.in/2008/01/experiences-of-sminu-jindal.html