The decision by the ground staff at IndiGo airlines to exclude a disabled teen from boarding a flight at Ranchi Airport caused an uproar among the online community and beyond after news of the incident was posted on Social Media. One of the teenager’s co-passengers, Ms. Manisha Gupta, posted about the incident on Facebook on Saturday, May 7.
Ms. Gupta said that before the flight, the teenager looked visibly distressed: "By the time he had gone through security check and reached the gate, he seemed to be in the throes of hunger, thirst, anxiety, and confusion." The fellow passenger commented on how the parents had managed to placate their son's meltdown, "with patience, some cajoling, some stern-ness, and many hugs"
But when the airline staff saw him, she says they warned the parents that they would not let them board if he had not calmed down. A few minutes later, IndiGo staff declared that the child would not be allowed to take the flight because he was a risk to other passengers.
Videos of the incident show that other passengers opposed the IndiGo staff's decision and demanded that the child and his parents would be allowed to board the flight. However, IndiGo staff did not change their decision to bar the child from taking the flight.
The day following the incident, IndiGo issued the following public statement: “In view of the safety of passengers, a specially-abled child could not board the flight with his family on May 7, as he was in a state of panic.” The airline's spokesperson also said that ground staff waited for him to calm down until the last minute, but this did not happen.
“We regret the inconvenience caused to the passengers. IndiGo prides itself on being an inclusive organization, be it for employees or its customers; and over 75,000 specially-abled passengers fly with IndiGo every month,” the airline’s statement added.
The airline’s spokesperson said that IndiGo ensured the family's comfort by providing them with a hotel stay and flying them to their destination the following morning.
In the aftermath of the recent incident, India’s Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said in a statement on May 9 that no human being should have to go through this and he himself is leading an investigation into what happened.
“There is zero tolerance towards such behavior. No human being should have to go through this! Investigating the matter by myself, post which appropriate action will be taken,” Mr. Scindia said on Twitter on the 9th of May.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is investigating this incident. DGCA chief Arun Kumar said in an interview on May 8 that the regulator has asked IndiGo for a report on the matter.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights chairperson, Priyank Kanoongo, said on Twitter “An incident of misbehavior with a specially-abled child by the staff of IndiGo at Ranchi airport has come out. Cognizance is being taken for appropriate action.”
InterGlobe Aviation Ltd., doing business as IndiGo, is a low-cost airline headquartered in Gurgaon, Haryana, India. As of October 2021, IndiGo is India's largest airline by passengers carried and fleet size. It holds a 53.5% share of the domestic market. It is also the largest individual Asian low-cost carrier in terms of jet fleet size and passengers carried, and the sixth-largest airline in Asia with over 64 million passengers carried from 2018 to 2019. IndiGo operated 1,500 flights on a daily basis as of 2019. This includes 71 domestic and 25 international destinations.