Low-cost airline IndiGo on Monday stood by its decision to not allow a child with special needs on board one of its flights in Ranchi over the weekend after a massive backlash and a warning from the Union Aviation Minister, offering to settle the row by buying him an electric wheelchair.
“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,” a statement from IndiGo CEO Ronojoy Dutta said.
“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.
“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,” the statement added.
Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia had warned IndiGo earlier in the day amid a spiralling backlash over the incident.
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. https://t.co/GJkeQcQ9iW
— Jyotiraditya M. Scindia (@JM_Scindia) May 9, 2022
The aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has also asked IndiGo for a report.
The action came after the harrowing ordeal of the family was widely shared on social media, triggering massive outrage.
IndiGo, in an earlier statement, had said the child posed a threat to other passengers’ safety. It stressed that it takes pride in being “inclusive” and refuted suggestions of discriminatory behaviour.
“In-view of the safety of passengers, a specially-abled child could not board the flight with his family on May 7, as he was in a state of panic. The ground staff waited for him to calm down till the last minute, but to no avail,” said the airline.
Manisha Gupta, a fellow passenger and a witness to the scene, wrote about the incident in an elaborate Facebook post.
The IndiGo manager, said Ms Gupta, kept shouting and telling everyone that the “child is uncontrollable”.
“The only person who is in panic is you,” Ms Gupta quoted a fellow passenger’s retort to the airline manager.
The family, said the airline, was provided a hotel stay, and they flew the next morning to their destination.
A group of doctors, travelling on the same flight, offered to provide full support to the child and his parents if any health episode were to occur mid-air, said Ms Gupta in her post.
Ms Gupta noted how other passengers rallied around the family.
They held up their mobile phones, said Ms Gupta, with news articles, Twitter posts on Supreme Court judgments on how no airline could discriminate against passengers with disabilities.
“In those 45 minutes of argument, temper, rage and contestation, the three (the family) had not once lost their dignity or raised their voice or spoken one irrational word,” said Ms Gupta.