Last week, India’s aviation watchdog, the DGCA, amended its airline regulations to give disabled passengers more rights. The move comes after a specially-abled passenger was refused access to an IndiGo flight back in May, sparking public outrage. The new rules mean airlines no longer have absolute power to revoke flight access for those with additional support needs.
Context for the Change
The change was incited by an incident at Ranchi Airport in May 2022, in which a disabled passenger was denied boarding by IndiGo staff, who deemed him a risk to other travellers. Details of the incident were posted on Facebook by an appalled onlooker, who claims staff refused to let the adolescent board despite pleas from doctors and government officials present at the airport.
The story got wide coverage over social media, eventually coming to the attention of India’s Minister for Aviation, Jyotiraditya M. Scindia, who commented:
“There is zero tolerance towards such behaviour. No human being should have to go through this! Investigating the matter by myself, post which appropriate action will be taken.”
The airline consequently received a hefty fine from the DGCA, as well as heavy criticism from the general public. To prevent future incidents, the DGCA said it would change its regulations for airlines. On 21 July, it through on its promise, amending flight rules for disabled passengers.
New Laws Regarding Disabled Passengers
The new rules prevent airlines from denying passengers boarding for health reasons without first consulting a doctor. Under the old system, disabled passengers could be refused carriage if it was believed they posed a danger to other travellers or the safety of the flight. The airline had ultimate authority over boarding rights, however, they were required to give the exact reason for their decision in writing.
The new law still allows airlines to deny boarding but makes it more difficult. Para 4.1.35, in Section 3, Series M, and Part 1 of the CAR rules were amended so that if staff believes a passenger’s health may deteriorate mid-flight, the said passenger must be examined by a doctor for a professional opinion. Only after obtaining the medical opinion can the airline decide on the passenger’s carriage. It must also inform the passenger of the reason for their decision in writing immediately.
It is hoped that new rules will help prevent further incidents of discrimination against disabled passengers.
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