India to restrict airlines denying disabled passengers boarding
Less than a week after fining India’s largest airline for denying boarding to a child with special needs, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has proposed changes to its rules on Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) to ensure that such incidents are avoided in the future. The proposed changes aim to prevent airlines from deciding whether a passenger with a disability is fit to fly. Let’s investigate further.
Airlines cannot deny boarding to passengers with disabilities
The incident involving IndiGo last month exploded on social media platforms, forcing India’s aviation regulator to take drastic action. India’s Civil Aviation Minister pledged to fully investigate the incident himself and take appropriate action. We now know that this action is twofold: fining IndiGo ₹500,000 ($6,435) while exposing its behavior towards the disabled passenger and proposing to change the CAR regulations.
The new rules will first be submitted for public comment. Photo: Getty Images
On the regulatory level, the DGCA wishes to add the following clause in the regulations:
“The airline shall not refuse carriage to any person on the basis of disability. However, in the event that an airline perceives that the health of such a passenger may deteriorate in flight, such passenger shall be examined by a doctor – who will state categorically the state of health and whether the passenger is fit to fly or not.. After obtaining the medical opinion, the Airline will take the appropriate call.
Simply put, airlines will have no legal authority to deny boarding to people with disabilities or special needs. Only a qualified doctor can check if a passenger is medically fit to fly.
Specifically, the above text will be added to Section 3 – M-Series – Part I of the CARs Regulations, which addresses “Air Transport of Disabled Persons and/or Persons with Reduced Mobility”. The amendment will be mentioned in the specific airline requirements which must be strictly adhered to by all Indian operators and foreign carriers operating in India.
A highly responsive aeronautical watchdog
While the proposed amendment will take at least two months to come into force, the speed with which the DGAC is doing its job is very commendable. As long as the proper procedures are followed to achieve the optimal outcome, there is nothing wrong with working at an accelerated pace to complete important investigations.
The incident that prompted these changes occurred on May 7 at Ranchi Airport. Photo: Airbus
Lately, the Indian regulator has taken an active role in ensuring that all airlines do nothing in violation of established rules. Let’s take IndiGo as an example and analyze the timeline of all major events:
- May 7: A child with special needs is denied boarding by IndiGo staff at Birsa Munda Airport (IXR) in the Indian town of Ranchi.
- May 9: Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya M. Scindia says he will personally investigate the incident and take appropriate action. In addition, the DGCA is constituting a three-member investigative committee to investigate the matter.
- May 17: The DGCA sends a show cause notice to IndiGo and gives the airline 10 days to file a response.
- May 28: DGCA fines IndiGo ₹500,000 ($6,435) for abusing a disabled underage passenger after conducting a personal hearing with the airline. The regulator also announced its intention to change the regulations to prevent such incidents from happening again.
- June 3: DGCA issues proposed amendments to CAR regulations.
What do you think of the actions of the DGCA? Let us know in the comments.