The disability discrimination row over Jet Airways failures to provide for passengers with reduced mobility is spiraling out of control as Anjlee Agarwal threatens to rally against the airline.
"Do I need to go out on the streets of New Delhi and conduct rallies with my supporters to call for justice, apology and compensation by Jet Airways?" the disability advocate said following the first court hearing of her case against Jet Airways.
Last Friday Jet Airways image took a dive as Reduced Mobility Rights exposed the airline’s despicable practice of charging for wheelchair support at select airports, Mrs Agarwal waged war of words against Jet Airways, and Etihad Airways took a pass on commenting on the Indian carrier disability discrimination row spiraling out of control.
Etihad Airways, who recently signed an agreement to purchase 24% of Jet Airways, declined to comment on the Indian Carrier disability discrimination case.
On Friday, Reduced Mobility Rights asked Etihad to comment on Jet Airways practice of charging disabledpassengers leaving from select Middle Eastern airports up to 53 US Dollars to provide wheelchair assistance, and up to 267 US Dollars severely disabled passengers who require high loaders to board the aircraft.
“I regret we are unable to comment about the practices of other carriers,” a spokesperson for Etihad said. The Abu Dhabi flag carrier does not charge its customers with reduced mobility for wheelchair assistance.
Jet Airways charges for wheelchair and high loader assistance passengers with disabilities departing from the following airports: Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah airport in the United Arab Emirates; Riyadh and Jeddah airport in Saudi Arabia; Muscat airport in the Sultanate of Oman; Bahrain international airport.
"The charge for wheelchair assistance covers the cost Jet incurs from its ground handlers," a Jet Airways spokesperson said. "Jet Airways’ policy is in line with other carriers operating in the respective regions."
Reduced Mobility Rights conducted its own research with other airlines departing from Bahrain International airport, where Jet Airways wheelchair charges are the highest ($53). None of the contacted airlines (Gulf Air, British Airways, and Air India) charge their vulnerable passengers for wheelchair assistance.
Following Reduced Mobility Rights initial report more alarming news on Jet Airways disability discrimination tactics surfaced.
"Fifteen months have passed and Jet Airways still preparing to appear for the court hearing to reply to the insult, injustice and humiliation I faced," disability advocate Anjlee Agarwal told Reduced Mobility Rights.
In February 2012 Miss Agarwal, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, complained of discriminatoryharassment at the hands of Jet Airways personnel. The disabled passenger was first forced to sign a waiver of liability. Upon arriving at destination, she was manhandled by untrained personnel despite availability of an aisle chair.
"Yesterday, during my first hearing, I was shocked to see that there was no one from Jet Airways," Anjlee Agarwal told Reduced Mobility Rights. "Only a junior advocate appeared and all he did was pleading the court for more time and a postponement of the hearing."
The plaintiff’s performance did not sit well with Anjlee Agarwal. "It was not only waste of time, money and efforts of the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, DGCA and professionals like me, but also shows callous and insensitive attitude of Jet Airways who is not prepared to accept that they are perpetrator and their staff is not trained to deal with disabled passengers, do not have basic courtesy and insulted a disabled woman."
Access Consultant with the Government of India, Anjlee Agarwal is Founder Trustee, Executive Director and Access Consultant at Samarthyam, a national research and technical assistance organization founded in 1994 in New Delhi, India.