Differently-abled woman denied wheel-chair: Air India orders enquiry

New Delhi: Air India has ordered an enquiry into an incident where a differently-abled woman was allegedly made to crawl after deboarding a plane here in the absence of a wheel-chair even as the national carrier's CMD expressed regret over the inconvenience caused in a letter to her.

The incident took place on January 29 when Anita Ghai, a differently-abled woman, landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) here by an Alliance Air flight from Dehradun and requested for a wheel-chair.
Ghai, who is a Delhi University associate professor, had alleged that she was made to "crawl" to the passenger coach as the airline failed to arrange a wheel-chair due to "security" reasons.

In a letter to Ghai, Air India Chairman and Managing Director Ashwani Lohani has deeply regretted the inconvenience caused to her. "We are also looking at the reasons behind the wheel-chair request not having been indicated in the ticket/PNR that you booked for your journey through Balmer and Lawrie.

"Had the request been made, the timely availability of wheel-chair at the ramp could have been ensured and the inconvenience caused to you could have been avoided," Lohani said in the letter. He also assured her that the carrier is fully sensitive to the needs of its passengers, especially the differently-abled.

Alliance Air, the regional arm of Air India, operated an ATR aircraft for the flight from Dehradun to Delhi. Regarding the incident, Lohani told PTI that there was lack of communication, adding that steps would be taken to ensure that such things do not happen again.

"It was unfortunate," he said, adding that after getting the enquiry report, steps would be taken. Lohani also noted that the passenger was in an ATR aircraft where wheel-chairs can be taken only till the stairs of the plane. When asked whether the incident is hurting the carrier's image, Lohani replied in the affirmative.

"I boarded this flight with four of my colleagues. Despite my repeated request, the (air) hostess did not recognise my requirement for a wheel-chair after reaching. The flight reached at 7:30 PM. I waited patiently with one of my friends," Anita Ghai had said.

"At 8:15 PM, we realised that there was no chance of (getting) a wheel-chair. The (passenger) coach came at 8.30 PM after repeated requests from the flight commander. Since security reasons are critical, they made me crawl to go to the coach," she had alleged.

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