Ground staff of IndiGo inappropriately handled a teenager with special needs at Ranchi airport, according to a preliminary investigation by aviation regulator DGCA. The probe was ordered after the airline had refused to board him earlier this month.
A show cause notice will be served, asking the airline why suitable enforcement action should not be taken against it. The airline will have to respond to the notice by May 26.
Depending on that, the regulator may impose a monetary penalty on the airline. After the amendment of the Aircraft Act, 1934, the regulator can now impose financial penalties for violations.
“The proceedings of the committee were partly held in the open and partly in camera as per the request of the affected family. The findings of the committee prima facie indicate inappropriate handling of passengers by the Indigo staff, thereby resulting in certain non-conformances with the applicable regulations,” the regulator said in a statement.
The current regulations have drawn criticism for lacking sensitivity to intellectual or cognitive challenges. The regulator may come out with some draft amendments in another fortnight.
On May 7, a passenger travelling from Ranchi airport wrote a post on social media saying that IndiGo refused to let a teenager with special needs board its aircraft. The airline’s response was that it waited for the child to calm down before boarding, but he didn’t. The family was put in a hotel and was accommodated in a flight the next morning.
A DGCA team went to Ranchi Airport to check the CCTV footage, interacted with the affected family and passengers of the same flight as part of its investigation.
While fellow passengers and the public on social media had called for strict action, IndiGo stood by its action saying the airport manager took the decision to ensure safety of other passengers.
"Throughout the check-in and boarding process our intent of course was to carry the family, however, at the boarding area the teenager was visibly in panic. While providing courteous and compassionate service to our customers is of paramount importance to us, the airport staff, in line with the safety guidelines, were forced to make a difficult decision as to whether this commotion would carry forward aboard the aircraft," IndiGo CEO Ronojoy Dutta had said.
While more mature markets like the US also allow airlines to deboard passengers in case of significant risk to the health or safety of others, it is mandatory for them to provide a written statement describing the reason within 10 days of the flight date.