More On Airlines Mistreating Disabled Passengers

Scott Rains alerted me to this disconcerting piece of news forwarded to him by Kavita Agrawal. When will airlines learn to respect disabled people as real people and not just another piece of cargo? They should realise that disabled travellers are becoming more aware of their rights and are not going to take such mistreatment lightly. I experienced the same problem a few years back while flying from my hometown in Penang to Kuala Lumpur. Read about that incident here and here.

Para Olympics champion alleges humiliation
3/19/2008 12:18:52 PM
Para Olympic champion Malvi Hola narrates her ordeal on Jet Airways to TIMES NOW, with her wheel chair (background) that was found broken in the aircraft’s cargo hold

A disabled athlete – no less than a para Olympics champion – has accused the crew of a leading airline of humiliation.

India’s para Olympic shotput champion Malti Hola has today (March 19) charged Jet Airways officials with humiliating her.

The incident occurred on February 20 on a flight to Delhi from Bangalore. Hola says after a two and a half hour flight, she was made to wait for another one and a half hours on the plane due to a delay in the arrival of the special chair which would take her out of the plane. The athlete did not receive any aid from the crew to visit the lavatory on the plane, resulting in an embarrassing situation for her.

But the problems did not end there. Malvi recalled her ordeal in an interview to TIMES NOW:

“The total journey was almost 2 and a half hours. They made me sit for one more hour and a half because of the ‘in chair’ (aisle chair) that had not arrived – there was a big communication gap between the cabin crew and the ground staff. The in chair is directly wheeled to the seat and the passenger transferred to her seat. By the time this arrived, I had developed internal problems since I had not been able to go to the toilet. My bladder was full so I started wetting my clothes.

“When I finaly came out, I had a big argument with the ground staff and the Jet Airways people. When my wheelchair came out of the cargo hold, it was totally broken, I was not able to use it at all. You know how essential the wheelchair is to people like us,” she said.

Hola added that the Jet airways officials “did not have the courtesy to even taken down the complaint. They were just going on apologising for the delay.”

With her wheelchair damaged and the camp for the Bejing Para Olympics fast approaching, Hola says she cannot think of training. She wonders at the fate of other disabled people who have to face such problems. “At least I can raise my voice and be heard because I am known through the field of sports – what if a normal disabled person goes through this?” she asks.

TIMES NOW has sought a reaction from Jet Airways but the airlines said they were questioning the cabin crew to get details of the incident and have refused to come on record.

Passengers with disabilities are required to fill some forms before the flight to state their medical condition to the airlines. It is not yet clear whether Hola had put her disability ‘on record’ in this manner before boarding the flight, an airline official stated.

Continued apathy

Incidentally, a similar ordeal was reportedly borne by another high-profile passenger on Jet Airways late last year when the airlines found wheelchair-ridden Jindal family scion, Sminu Jindal, so unfit to fly that it asked her to either sign an indemnity bond or deplane.

The incident — which again highlights airlines’ apathetic attitude towards physically-challenged passengers — happened on December 25 when 34-year-old Sminu Jindal, who heads Jindal Saw, was travelling from Delhi to Bangkok on Christmas with her husband Indresh Batra on Jet’s business class.

Moreover in the return sector flight on January 1 Jindal alleged the airline did not provide any aisle chair. “My husband had to drag me to the seat on the flight. The issue is not about me being treated like this, but how airlines still refuse to provide basic assistance and dignity to physically-challenged passengers,” she said.

On its part, Jet Airways had accepted its mistake and apologised to Jindal. Jet’s EVP (commercial) Sudheer Raghavan at the time even admitted “Jet Airways does not currently provide aisle chairs to special need passengers. We are examining the possibility of providing such services.”

Author: Peter Tan

Peter Gabriel Tan. Penangite residing in the Klang Valley. Blissfully married to Wuan. A LaSallian through and through. Slave to three cats. Wheelchair user since 1984. End-stage renal disease since 2017. Principal Facilitator at Peter Tan Training specialising in Disability Equality Training. Former columnist of Breaking Barriers with The Borneo Post. This blog chronicles my life, thoughts and opinions. Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.

3 thoughts on “More On Airlines Mistreating Disabled Passengers”

  1. It’s stories like this that makes me so disllusioned about the progress airlines have made in accommodating travelers with disabilities. I looked at the photo of her damaged wheelchair and there’s just no excuse for staff for that level of damage.

    Wheelchairs should have been tagged fragile and stored at the proper cargo compartment. In this case, the wheelchair was totally trashed which made me wonder how it was handled.

  2. If they treat wheelchairs like they do to bags, then it’ll be a miracle if the wheels are still attached to the chair!
    It seems at times they hire guys in training for the shot putt event.I’ve seen bags hurled and thrashed ,no kidding-try throwing your bag from the container to six feet on the ground, and you have to give credit to the manufacturers that the bags are still in one piece!
    The fragile sticker merely advises the handlers that the item has to be hurled less than half the distance and you fill in a form that absolves the airline of any responsibility- no win situation!

    You are comical with the fragile sticker advising that items be thrown half the distance. Wheelchairs should never be treated like another piece of luggage. They are the only means of mobility for people who cannot walk. When will these airlines ever learn?

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