Monday, 30th October 2017

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Jeeja Ghosh ‘hurt’ by airline GoAir's conduct

Flyer with cerebral palsy asked to wait at check-in counter

  • Published 21.10.19, 6:02 AM
  • Updated 21.10.19, 6:02 AM
  • 2 mins read
Jeeja Ghosh Telegraph Picture

A disability rights advocate with cerebral palsy was allegedly made to wait at the check-in counter, apparently because she was travelling alone, on Sunday.

Jeeja Ghosh complained that the airline could not provide a wheelchair and also did not have anyone to push one.

The airline representative allegedly asked Ghosh why she did not have an escort accompanying her.

Ghosh said she felt “extremely hurt” by Sunday’s incident. “I can travel alone, so why were they insisting on an escort?” she asked.

An independent and widely travelled woman, Ghosh was scheduled to board a GoAir flight to Delhi from the Calcutta airport on Sunday afternoon. She was on her way to Delhi with three others to attend a conference on disability on Monday.

All four reached gate 3A on the departure level around 12.30pm on Sunday, nearly two hours ahead of the scheduled take-off.

“We got down from the car and walked up to the airline’s check-in counter,” Ghosh said.

The other three checked in and went ahead but when Ghosh’s turn came she was allegedly made to wait.

“On reaching the counter, I requested for a wheelchair to go for security check and then proceed for boarding, Ghosh said. “But the GoAir representative would not let me in. She asked me to wait, but did not provide any explanation.”

“I realised the airline did not have a wheelchair ready and also did not have anyone to push the wheelchair. I was made to stand for at least 15 minutes,” Ghosh told Metro.

Ratnaboli Ray, who was travelling with Ghosh, said an airline employee called her up and accused her of abandoning Ghosh instead of escorting her.

“The caller (a lady) accused me of abandoning her and insisted I go and escort her in. I told her it was their job to provide a wheelchair. Later another person called up and said Jeeja was agitated, we went back to the check-in counter although we had already proceeded for boarding,” Ray said.

A wheelchair was finally arranged for Ghosh along with a person to push it but Ray and the others too went with her.

GoAir later issued a statement, apologising for “the unfortunate incident”.

“GoAir sincerely apologises for the unfortunate incident that took place during the check-in process of a passenger with disability on GoAir flight G8102 from Calcutta to Delhi. The disabled passenger did not pre-book a wheelchair but asked for one at the check-in counter. The duty staff upon realising all three wheelchairs allocated for the said flight were occupied, informed the passenger that she will try to source a wheelchair. It took a few minutes to arrange a wheelchair. GoAir apologises for the delay in sourcing the wheelchair,” the statement said. “Wheelchair was sourced and provided for and the passenger was escorted all the way to the aircraft door by the GoAir staff. The duty staff have personally apologised to the passenger and expressed regret for the inconvenience caused to the passenger.”

Airline sources said a passenger must book a wheelchair at least 48 hours ahead of the scheduled departure. “We asked for five to seven minutes to source the wheelchair in the absence of a pre-booking. It was unfortunate that the issue was blown out of proportion,” said an airline source.

Lack of wheelchair has been a perenneial problem at Calcutta airport and some airport officials admitted there should be provision of wheelchairs for passengers who have not booked it in advance. “What if someone needs a wheelchair suddenly?” asked one official.