India’s biggest airline IndiGo on Saturday barred a child with special needs from boarding a flight at the Ranchi airport, saying that he was in “a state of panic”, PTI reported.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation has ordered an investigation into the incident and asked the airline to submit a report, officials told the news agency.
The matter came to light after a woman identified as Manisha Gupta shared it on Facebook. Gupta, who was a witness to the scene, wrote that the Indigo officials said “behaviours such as this [of the child], and that of drunk passengers, deems them unfit to travel”.
Gupta said that the child had an uncomfortable car ride to the airport and after going through security, he seemed to be hungry, thirsty, anxious and confused. She said that the child felt better after he was fed and given medicine.
She said that the co-passengers had no objection to the child boarding the flight. Moreover, a group of doctors offered to provide full support to the boy and his parents if any health episode were to occur mid-air.
“Other doctors, teachers, government officials emerged from the widening ring of passengers,” Gupta wrote. “They held up their mobile phones with news articles, Twitter posts on Supreme Court judgements on how no airline could discriminate against passengers with disabilities.”
In a statement, Indigo claimed that the ground staff waited for the child to calm down till the last minute, but it did not happen. Gupta, however, claimed that the child had calmed down and was ready to board the flight.
“We regret the inconvenience caused to the passengers,” the airline said. “IndiGo prides itself on being an inclusive organisation, be it for employees or its customers; and over 75,000 specially-abled passengers fly with IndiGo every month.”
The airline said it was “distressed by the unfortunate incident”.
The airlines offered to purchase an electronic wheelchair for the child. Indigo also said that the family was put up at a hotel and were flown out to their destination – Hyderabad – the next morning.
As the matter escalated, Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia on Monday said that there is “zero tolerance towards such behaviour”. He promised that appropriate action will be taken by him after an investigation. “No human being should have to go through this,” the minister said in a tweet.
Meanwhile, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights Chairperson Priyank Kanoongo asked the Jharkhand Police to lodge a first information report in connection with the case, PTI reported.
There was evidence that the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act was violated, he added.
“It is also further requested that an action-taken report be submitted to the commission within seven days of receipt of this letter,” he said.