Mumbai: Aviation regulator DGCA has formed a three-member team to conduct a fact-finding enquiry into IndiGo crew barring a specially-abled child from boarding a flight at the Ranchi airport as he was in a “state of panic”. The DGCA issued a statement on Monday saying, “The team will visit Ranchi and Hyderabad (place of stay of the family concerned) and collect appropriate evidence within one week from today. Based on the outcome of the inquiry, further action shall entail.”
IndiGo CEO Ronojoy Dutta expressed regret on Monday over the incident and offered to buy an electric wheelchair for the boy. Dutta said the airline staff took the best possible decision under difficult circumstances. Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said on Twitter that no human being should have to go through this and he himself is investigating the Ranchi incident.
Meanwhile, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has asked the Jharkhand police to lodge an FIR against IndiGo as there was a prima facie violation of section 7 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, which is cognisable in nature.
The incident came to light after other passengers highlighted it on social media on Sunday. In a statement, Dutta said, “We recognise 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.”
As the boy was prohibited from boarding the airline's Ranchi-Hyderabad flight on Saturday, his parents -- who were accompanying him -- also decided not to enter the plane. Dutta said, “Having reviewed all aspects of this incident, we as an organisation are of the view that we made the best possible decision under difficult circumstances. 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. All of us at IndiGo are truly distressed by this particular incident,” he said.
A passenger, Manisha Gupta, posted about the incident in detail on LinkedIn on Sunday. She said the adolescent with special needs was in great discomfort at the Ranchi airport on Saturday. “The exhaustion of the drive to the airport and then the stress of security check has sent him into the throes of hunger, thirst, anxiety and confusion. His parents obviously knew how to handle his meltdown -- with patience, cajoling, stern-ness, many hugs,” she wrote.
By the time the boarding began, the child was fed and given his medicines, Gupta noted. He seemed ready except for some big displays of general teenage assertiveness, she said. “Then we witnessed the full display of brute authority and power. The IndiGo staff declared that the child would not be allowed to take the flight because he was a risk to other passengers. The IndiGo manager also said something on lines of 'behaviours such as this, and that of drunk passengers, deems them unfit to travel," Gupta wrote.
The other passengers opposed him resolutely and demanded that the child and his parents board the flight as soon as possible, she informed. However, the IndiGo staff did not change their decision of barring the child from taking the flight, Gupta said.