Monday, July 22, 2013

DGCA draft guidelines aim at easing air travel for disabled passengers

DGCA draft guidelines aim at easing air travel for disabled passengers

Priyal Dave : Mumbai, Sun Jul 21 2013, 02:49 hrs

To cut down multiple medical clearances required by disabled passengers during air travel, Director General of Civil Aviation, in its new Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR), has suggested that airlines issue Frequent Travellers Medical Card (FREMEC). The card will be acceptable across airlines. DGCA has invited suggestions on CAR from the public by July 31.

The draft guidelines include appointment of a nodal and an appellate authority for grievance redressal, involvement of travel agents to ascertain needs of disabled passengers at the time of booking and standardisation of training of airline, airport and security staff.

The draft, however, is silent about the procedure of security check for disabled passengers. "It also does not have clear guidelines on the prosthetic devices, rendering this a grey area," said Suranjana Ghosh, a Mumbai-based media professional. The 37-year-old said on July 11, CISF personnel at Mumbai Airport asked her to remove her prosthesis completely, a demand that she found humiliating.

The draft, however, states that airport operator will be responsible for training security staff at the airport. It also mandates that airlines and operators sensitise their staff regarding disabled persons. The content and duration of the programme has to be in accordance with the guidelines issued by Department of Disability Affairs, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. Operators are also required to provide specific training for personnel who directly assist such passengers.

To standardise the format of collecting information, airlines and travel agents will be required to provide Medical Information Form or Incapacitated Passenger Handling Advice.

Biji Eapan, national president of IATA Agents' Association of India, welcomed the involvement of travel agents in collecting information about disabled persons. "Internationally, travel agents are considered as consultants who are professionally trained to guide passengers in documentation. They should be qualified to also help disabled passengers."

However, Iqbal Mulla, president Travel Agents Association of India, said, "DGCA places responsibility on travel agents but does not talk about extra remuneration for providing complementary services."

As per the draft, in case airlines refuse to carry disabled passengers, they have specify in writing the reason for doing so.

It also states new or refurbished aircraft should be fitted with special equipment to cater to needs of disabled passengers. Passengers are required to use wheelchairs as per specifications by Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC), UK, if they insist on using their own wheelchairs inside airport. They are expected to notify their travel needs at least 48 hours prior to the flight. However, in case of emergency, airlines are expected to cooperate with such passengers.

Airlines are required to provide on-board aisle wheelchairs, conforming to DPTAC, for embarkation and disembarkation.

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