A disabled teenager and his family were prevented from boarding their flight on Saturday at Ranchi Airport in India after staff members said he posed a risk to other passengers because of his “uncontrollable” behavior.
A passenger on the flight, Manisha Gupta, wrote about the story yesterday on Facebook, where she described staff members as displaying “brute authority and power.” Gupta explained that the teenager, who was in a wheelchair, was in “great distress” and showing signs of “hunger, thirst, anxiety and confusion.” She added that the parents were “obviously” capable of handling the incident and managed to calm him down.
Gupta stated that by the time boarding began, the teenager was ready for the flight, as he had been given his medication, was fed and had “many sips of juice and water.” The IndiGo staff members, however, approached the family and warned that they would not be allowed to board the flight if the teenager did not become “normal.”
“The Indigo staff announced that the child would not be allowed to take the flight. That he was a risk to other passengers. That he would have to become ‘normal’, before he could travel-worthy. And the staff then went on to state something on lines of ‘behaviors such as this, and that of drunk passengers, deems them unfit to travel,’” Gupta wrote.
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Many passengers on the flight objected to the staff’s assertions while reassuring them that they had no issues with the family boarding the flight. Some passengers allegedly challenged the manager by showing him the rulebook on the IndiGo website as well as court cases stating that airlines cannot discriminate against passengers with disabilities. A group of doctors taking the same flight also volunteered to “provide full support” to the family in case of a medical emergency.
The IndiGo flight manager, however, did not have a change of heart and refused to let the family board.
“‘This child is uncontrollable. He is in a state of panic,’ the Indigo manager allegedly kept shouting and telling everyone. But all we could see was a young adolescent, sitting very quietly on a wheel chair, terror-striken by how he was being called out as a risk to the normal world,” Gupta wrote.
Gupta recalled how the family did not once raise their voice or attempt to fight back and described them as being courageous for having to “probably fight everyday for love, respect and dignity.”
IndiGo airline responded to the incident by releasing a statement claiming that the company “prides itself on being an inclusive organization” and that the family was provided with a flight for the next morning and an overnight hotel stay.
Aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia stated on Monday that the incident was being investigated and that “appropriate action” would be taken.