Fiona Fernandez: Low-care airlines

India’s low-cost airlines need to pay close attention to passengers who need it the most

Summer’s here. And our domestic airport could give reigning champion Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus a run for its money in the chaos category. From being nearly run over — courtesy trolley races helmed by bratty nine-year-olds — to decibel levels that come close to an A320 readying for take-off, to the mad scramble in queues: it would be odd if you haven’t encountered any of the above during this time of the year.

It gets worse if you’re a senior citizen or a wheelchair-bound passenger. Recently, we experienced this apathy when we had to drop two senior citizens at the airport, only to be informed by the low-cost airline staff that since their ground crew didn’t have the necessary pass to enter the airport, they were unable to accompany them to the appropriate ‘senior citizen/wheelchair’ counter inside the terminal.

This, despite the reassurance given to us the previous day by the airline’s helpline that all necessary assistance would be offered to senior citizens.

Anxious, we had to seek help from a few fellow travellers who guided them to the right counter. Later, on enquiry if it was a smooth flight, we were told that staff was co-operative throughout – but only when they asked for assistance at each point – and not otherwise.

We were left wondering if things would have been different if the same passengers were flying by a premium airline. Such episodes are commonplace, and reiterate a gaping vacuum that is woefully ignored.

A few days earlier, we had chanced upon a business travel show hosted by a travel journalist who was on a unique challenge — to travel around the world in eight days using low-cost airlines.

It was reassuring to note how these airlines, similar to desi versions in their value-for-money fares and no-frills approach, did not compromise when it came to many conveniences, including care for senior citizens and wheelchair-bound passengers.

Airline food was another area where the word ‘appetizing’ was done justice to, unlike here, where there is a vast difference from the glossy in-flight magazine photos to the real deal. But we would need to dedicate an entire column for that obvious crib of India’s flying population.

It’s difficult to believe that in a country where one is taught to respect elders, the same thought doesn’t spill over to such basic facilities.

This journalist recalls how a while back, a European airline took a cue from this ‘proud’ Indian tradition with a heart-tugging commercial centred on an Indian mother who was returning to Hyderabad after visiting her son in the West. It was a rage on social media.

Low-cost flying might be a boon to the average Indian, but it certainly it wouldn’t hurt these airlines to throw in some TLC for those who need it, especially since it doesn’t come at a cost.

mid-day’s Features Editor Fiona Fernandez relishes the city’s sights, sounds, smells and stones...wherever the ink and the inclination takes her. She tweets @bombayana. Send your feedback to

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