Special-needs child not allowed to board flight, airline issues apology

"The child is uncontrollable. He is in a state of panic," the IndiGo manager kept shouting and telling everyone

Budget airline IndiGo allegedly denied boarding to a special needs teenage child and his family on a Hyderabad-bound flight at Ranchi on May 7.

According to a post on Twitter, the child was in panic mode as he did not have a comfortable car ride to the airport. During boarding, the child started getting hungry, thirsty, anxious, and confused.

His parents handled the situation and calmed him down. However, this caught the eye of an IndiGo staff who came up to the family and allegedly said that they will not let the child board the plane if he doesn’t “behave normal”.

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When it was time to board, the teenage child had completely calmed down. But the IndiGo staff announced that the child will not be allowed to board giving an explanation that the child can be a “risk to other passengers.”

This did not go well with other passengers who questioned the staff on their decision. Several passengers went to the IndiGo website and registered complaints about the discriminatory incident.

“The child is uncontrollable. He is in a state of panic,” the IndiGo manager kept yelling, to which a woman passenger snapped back saying, “The only person who is in panic is you.”

Another passenger shouted saying, “Why don’t you call the Captain? Please call your manager. His normal is not the same as your normal. Look, he has traveled many times before on flights. He was just having a bad day. He is fine now. Please let him travel.”

However, no matter what the passengers or the family of the child did, the airline authority had made up their mind and did not allow the family of three to board the plane.

The incident soon went viral on social media, especially on Twitter where people started tagging Minister of Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Madhavrao Scindia, Directorate General of Civil Aviation, and the Prime Minister’s office.

Scindia orders probe

The Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia has ordered a probe in a boarding row at the Ranchi Airport wherein the IndiGo Airlines debarred a child with special needs and his family citing inconvenience to the other passengers on Saturday.

Stating that ‘there is zero tolerance towards such behavior’, Scindia said in a Twitter message on Monday, “No human being should have to go through this! Investigating the matter by myself, post which appropriate action will be taken.”

Meanwhile, it is learned that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) chief has sought a report from IndiGo on the matter. “The DGCA is probing this incident and it will take appropriate action,” the officials aware of this development said.

IndiGo issued a statement saying, “The airline made the family comfortable by providing them with a hotel stay, the family flew on Sunday morning to their destination. IndiGo prides itself on being an inclusive organisation, be it for employees or customers; and over 75K specially-abled passengers fly with IndiGo every month.”

Airline issues apology

IndiGo airline on Monday issued an apology and “sincere regrets” to the family of a teenager with special needs who was barred from boarding a plane along with his parents at the Ranchi airport on Saturday. The airline said that it had reviewed the situation and “made the best possible decision under difficult circumstances.”

The airline has also offered an electric wheelchair to the teenager. The statement has been issued on behalf of Ronojoy Dutta, Whole Time Director and Chief Executive Officer of IndiGo.

“We had a very unfortunate incident at Ranchi airport on May 07, 2022, when a specially-abled teenager and his parents could not board their scheduled flight to Hyderabad,” the statement reads.
It further said that all the staff at IndiGo are truly distressed by this particular incident.

“All of us at IndiGo are truly distressed by this particular incident. Since April 2022 we have carried over 75k specially-abled passengers aboard our airline and our crew and airport staff are trained to serve such passengers sensitively,” the statement further reads.

The airline said that the airport staff in line with the safety guidelines were forced to make a difficult decision as to whether this commotion would carry forward aboard the aircraft.

“Throughout the check-in and boarding process, our intent of course was to carry the family, however, at the boarding area, the teenager was visibly in panic. While providing courteous and compassionate service to our customers is of paramount importance to us, the airport staff, in line with the safety guidelines, were forced to make a difficult decision as to whether this commotion would carry forward aboard the aircraft. Having reviewed all aspects of this incident, we as an organization are of the view that we made the best possible decision under difficult circumstances,” it said.

Indigo further said that the airline would like to offer to purchase an electric wheelchair for their son.
“We recognize too well that parents who dedicate their lives to the caring of physically challenged persons are the true heroes of our society. We offer our sincere regrets to the affected family for the unfortunate experience and as a small token of our appreciation of their lifelong dedication would like to offer to purchase an electric wheelchair for their son,” it reads.

(with inputs from agencies)

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