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SpiceJet starts probe into offloading of disabled woman

No-frill carrier SpiceJet has begun an enquiry into an incident in which a differently-abled woman was off-loaded from its Kolkata-Mumbai flight yesterday after the crew claimed it was not safe to have her on board.

The airline, which expressed regret at the incident, said, "We are investigating the matter internally and action will be taken" in the matter in which Jeeja Ghosh, a 42-year-old teacher at Kolkata's Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy, was offloaded after she had boarded the flight.

Ghosh was to fly to Goa to attend a conference and to deliver a lecture on bringing the differently-abled to the mainstream.

Expressing concern over the incident, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh told reporters here, "We will ask SpiceJet and see what action they take against their pilot."

Under the existing Civil Aviation Rules set by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), there is detailed guideline entitled 'Carriage by Air of Persons with Disability and/or Persons with Reduced Mobility' that came in to effect in May 2008. This rule specifically states that "no airline shall refuse to carry persons with disability or persons with reduced mobility and their assistive aids/devices, escorts and guide dogs including their presence in the cabin, provided such persons or their representatives, at the time of booking and/or check-in for travel, inform the airlines of their requirement."

The rule also states that "no medical clearance or special forms shall be insisted from persons with disabilities or persons with reduced mobility who only require special assistance at the airport for assistance in embarking/ disembarking and a reasonable accommodation in flight", barring those having diseases.

The rules make it mandatory for airlines to hold special training for their staff on handling of such passengers and also have refresher courses every three years.

Airline sources in Kolkata had earlier claimed that as Ghosh suffered from celebral palsy, it was not safe for the airline to allow her inside the aircraft.

After being denied the permission to fly, she had lodged a complaint with the SpiceJet authorities, saying the pilot was "adamant" in not allowing her to fly though some people tried to convince him to take her on board.

"I think such people should get a show cause notice. They don't deserve to hold the job. They are not human beings," Ghosh, herself a frequent flier, had later told reporters in Kolkata.

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