Updated February 29th, 2024 at 17:48 IST

Air India fined: Are airlines ensuring hassle-free travel for senior citizens?

Not VIP lounges but ramps for wheelchairs are needed to ensure hassle-free travel for the elderly.

Reported by: Saqib Malik
Waiting For Wheelchair, Air India Passenger Walks 1 Km At Mumbai Airport, Dies of Heart Attack | Image:Representative
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Least-accessible airports: The aviation regulator Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Thursday imposed a fine of Rs 30 lakh on Air India, for the incident where an 80-year-old passenger died due to a strenuous commute by foot, reportedly due to lack of a wheel-chair.  

As airports across India are witnessing a sharp increase in traveller footfalls, travel for senior citizens, or the specially-abled is getting difficult with each passing day. Is there a need for more help desks where assistance with sign language is made available for persons with communication barriers, so that they do not get abandoned or lost, thus wasting their travel time? Republic Business takes a deep dive

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Read more: ‘Seamless connectivity,’ can commute to India’s less-accessible airports get smooth with metro?

Ramps over VIP lounges

Aviation experts have been stressing on need for more facilities for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), rather than a large part of airport terminal budgets allocated for lounges. Apart from airlines, experts feel airport officials, and the aviation regulator have a key role in making airport terminals passenger-friendly.

While the Republic Business query sent to Air India did not elicit any response, a set of recommendations recently sent to the government by rights activist Dhairyasheel Vandekar says airport terminals should have a separate reserved, designated gate towards the airport from which passengers with disability (PWDs) can enter the airport at the drop gate and departure entry gates.

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“We should have a reserved X-ray counter where luggage of passengers with disabilities could be checked. There should be assistance or support for passengers having no one accompanying them,” said Vandekar.

Read more: Budget 2024: India's Tier-2, Tier-3 city airports, first-time flyers pin hopes on UDAN

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“The baggage put on x-ray machines and accommodate back in vehicles, apart from drop gate facilities such as sufficient parking slots be made available where persons with disabilities can board and de-board the vehicles as per their requirement,” the aviation expert Vandekar added.

The expert pointed out that quite often cerebral palsy and wheelchair users take time in de-boarding their vehicles, adding that the parking slots should be painted and prominently display signages.

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Parking slots, assistance

As per aviation experts, it becomes imminent to have security assistance at all travel points for the elderly and specially-abled. “The ground staff must be well aware of how to deal with persons with disabilities while the tables and desks should be of dimensions as required by wheelchair passengers who are short in height,” added activist Vandekar, in his recommendations submitted to the government.

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The tables should accommodate the front portion of a wheelchair so that distance is not too much between the guest agent on the desk and the wheelchair user guest, the expert recommendations said.

“A specially designated check-in counter with lesser elevation, for hassle-free communication between wheelchair-bound passengers and check-in staff should be provided. It is often seen that no charging points and switches are accessible to travellers with disabilities. All waiting halls including VIP lounge should consist of accessible switchboards and charging points,” read the recommendations submitted by Vandekar.

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He said the visually impaired persons should be assisted and all communication material should be available in audio format so that they it becomes possible for them to access their ticket and boarding pass information with the help of their mobile phones.

“All the cabin wheelchairs should be easily available, and persons having mobility issues should be allowed to use their own wheelchairs if they feel uneasy on airline wheelchairs. There must be a flexibility offered in these circumstances,” said the aviation expert in his recommendations.

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Published February 29th, 2024 at 17:48 IST