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Airports should have user-friendly shuttle buses to ferry passengers

delhi Updated: Sep 12, 2010 01:16 IST
Pushpa Girimaji
Pushpa Girimaji
Hindustan Times

Even a school student will tell you that you cannot deploy high-floor buses with several steep steps to ferry passengers from the aircraft to the terminal and vice versa.

Yet, you will find at several airports around the country, such buses plying on the airfield.

At Delhi airport for example, I find senior citizens, people with heavy handbags and young women carrying babies, struggling to climb those steep steps to board the bus and to disembark.

I see people with knee problems wincing in pain as they board the bus.

How can anyone be so insensitive to the safety and comfort of passengers, particularly senior citizens and those who are physically challenged? As consumers, we need to know who was responsible for bringing such buses into the airports, because frankly, I do not see any place for such buses at the airports.

In fact, ferrying passengers in buses should be stopped forthwith and airlines should provide aerobridges for the safe transfer of passengers from the aircraft to the airport terminal. It is archaic to use staircases and bus shuttles.

If this cannot be done immediately, then the least that can be done is to provide buses that are more consumer-friendly. I have seen for example, low-floor buses that have a 'kneeling suspension' that allows the floor to be lowered almost to the road level so that passengers, particularly those on wheelchairs, can board the bus without any problem.

N.P. Muralidhar: Last year, a relative — a senior citizen — suffered multiple fractures while trying to board a bus that was taking passengers from the terminal to the aircraft at Chennai airport. He says the bus had very steep steps and he slipped and fell while climbing. Can he file a consumer complaint?

Answer: He certainly can and he should. Providing such unsafe buses certainly constitutes deficiency in service and negligence. Besides the compensation that he is entitled to, he would also be forcing the authorities (hopefully) to get rid of those buses. In fact that should be one of the prayers in his complaint before the consumer court.

There are several decided cases that will come to his aid. First and foremost, I must quote the case of Smt. Vinaya Vilas Sawant Vs Union of India (decided on November 29, 2007). Here, after alighting from the train, the passenger was going over the 'foot overbridge' when it suddenly collapsed, injuring her.

The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission made it clear that a person who purchases a ticket to travel by train would be a consumer of that service not only in respect of the train travel, “but also in respect of the use of the railway platform, footpath, over-bridges used for ingress to and egress from the train”. So if there is any deficiency in any of these services resulting in injury, the passenger is entitled to compensation. This order would be applicable in your case, too.

I must also quote here a more recent case of a passenger suffering serious injuries on account of a fall while deplaning at Kolkata airport.

Here, while the complainant, Mr Kallol Basu, alleged deficiency and negligence on the part of the airline in providing a stairway that was wet, unstable, wobbly and dilapidated, the airline argued that it was the complainant's own laxity, carelessness and negligence that had caused the accident! It also took the plea that no one else but the complainant had fallen!

Dismissing such ridiculous contentions, the West Bengal State Consumer ‘Disputes Redressal Commission awarded a compensation of R22,41,560.

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