An Indian low-cost airline is under fire after a disabled teen was denied boarding on a flight because the staff told his parents the boy would be a risk to other passengers, according to a report.
The incident at the Ranchi airport on Saturday came to light after a passenger on the flight to Hyderabad described it on Facebook, the BBC reported.
“By the time he had gone through security check and reached the gate (almost an hour ahead of boarding), he seemed to be in the throes of hunger, thirst, anxiety and confusion,” Manisha Gupta wrote.
“His parents obviously knew how to handle his meltdown — with patience, some cajoling, some stern-ness, many hugs etc. And the other passengers were stopping by to ask if they needed any help or support,” she wrote.
“This caught the attention of the #indigoairlines staff, who walked upto the trio, and warned them that he would not let them board, if the child did not quieten down and become ‘normal,’” Gupta continued.
She described how as boarding began, other passengers expressed support for the family and their boy.
“There was a delegation of doctors who were taking the same flight. They asked the ground staff to get the airport doctor and let him/her take a call on the fitness of the child to travel,” Gupta explained.
“They offered to provide full support to the child and his parents, if any health episode were to occur mid-air. ‘We are doctors traveling with this child and his family. Now let him board,’ they said,” she wrote.
But an IndiGo manager allegedly told the passengers: “This child is uncontrollable. He is in a state of panic.”
Gupta said the child was “sitting very quietly on a wheel chair, terror-striken (SIC) by how he was being called out as a risk to the normal world. ‘The only person who is in panic is you,’ a woman passenger retorted.”
The flight eventaully “departed, leaving behind three courageous Indians at the boarding terminal, who probably fight everyday for love, respect and dignity,” Gupta wrote.
“The security guard locked and secured the boarding gate with an iron padlet and chains, even as the mother pleaded from the other side of the glass door,” she said.
“‘Do you know what it means to be a parent to a special child,’ the mother had asked the airline manager in a very fraught moment. ‘Do you think as a mother, I would ever let my child harm himself or anyone?’ This was the most gut-wrenching statement we could have heard on the eve of #mothersday,” Gupta wrote.
Her post went viral, garnering about 1,600 comments.
“Power to the family!!! I just hope that manager doesn’t have to go what this family had to go through,” one user wrote. “Must remember karma does hit back!!! Heard such things on foreign lands now the same in our country where we thought we were the most sensitive people. Disgrace!!!”
Another wrote: “People should boycott Indigo for this reason, it’s a shameful behavior.”
India’s aviation minister, Jyotiraditya Scindia, on Monday promised “appropriate action,” saying he was personally investigating the incident.
“There is zero tolerance towards such behaviour. No human being should have to go through this,” he said in a tweet.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation is seeking a report from IndiGo, the BBC reported.