Mumbai: Wheelchair-bound man dies after Air India refuses him boarding pass

Updated: Jul 11, 2019, 16:18 IST | mid-day online correspondent

The deceased's family tried to file a complaint of negligence against the airline on Tuesday, but the formalities could not be completed till late evening due to some missing documents.

Mumbai: Wheelchair-bound man dies after Air India refuses him boarding pass
Representational image

A wheelchair-bound 49-year-old, on his way to Mangalore on Tuesday morning to see a doctor for a spinal cord injury, died at the Mumbai airport. The deceased identified as William Fernandes, who worked as a nurse in Tel Aviv and a father of two, had flown down especially to seek treatment for an injury impacting his leg. William Fernandes's family was waiting for him at the Mangalore airport with an ambulance to take him to a hospital.

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William’s room-mate, Arun Fernandes who was in Tel Aviv and travelled with him, stated that he did not complain of any discomfort when they left the hotel in the morning for the airport. "I went looking for a wheelchair at the airport for him. But by the time I came back, he had collapsed in the car," added Arun. The doctors at Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) checked William and found no pulse. The family tried to file a complaint of negligence against the airline on Tuesday, but the formalities could not be completed till late evening due to some missing documents. The body will be flown on Wednesday morning to Mangalore on an Air India flight.

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According to Times of India, Arun stated that they landed in Mumbai on Monday at 7.30 am and their connecting Air India flight to Mangalore was at 10.25 am. "We reached the counter at 8.30 am. They checked in our bags, but kept us waiting for boarding passes," he said. The airline later informed them that the flight was overbooked and offered to fly them to Goa, from where it was suggested, they could take a car to Mangalore. "Given William’s condition, it was a ridiculous offer," stated Arun. Incidentally, many flights were affected as operations were suspended for 19 minutes at Mumbai airport on Tuesday morning between 9.12 am and 9.31 am due to heavy downpour. Air India stated their records do not reflect any intimation from the passenger condition about a medical emergency. "Only those arriving at the last moment are not allowed to board," said a spokesman.

Arun, however, states William was in a wheelchair and that should have been enough for the airline to prioritise his boarding. "We landed at 7.30 am and we were at the Air India counter at 8.30 am. Our flight was at 10.25 am. How is that late?" he added denying the statement of being late. Kevin Rekhy, a family friend of William, stated that there was a clear lapse on the part of the airline. "When someone is in a wheelchair and pleading that he needs to go for a medical check up on landing, what more proof is required. Also, they reached the counter well in time. We will ask for CCTV footage. The airline has a lot to answer," he added.

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