It was a rather turbulent flight for paraplegic tennis player Salil Chaturvedi, who represented India in wheelchair tennis at the Australian Open in Melbourne. On Friday night’s Chennai-to-Delhi SpiceJet flight, he was not provided his wheelchair to disembark from the aircraft and was left cramped in his seat for over an hour.
On Thursday, when Chaturvedi flew SpiceJet to Chennai, he was neither offered priority boarding nor an aisle chair to board the plane. His urine bag was also yanked off. He told HT, “I was carried along the aisle by untrained porters like a sack of potatoes, while I tried to keep my trousers from slipping and closed my eyes to save myself from the embarrassment, as all passengers turned to look at me.”
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation rulebook, effective from May 1, stipulates that a passenger’s wheelchair should be returned to him at the time of disembarking. It is mandatory for every operator to provide ambulifts to enable disabled passengers embark/disembark the aircraft. But despite this, the crew insisted that Chaturvedi use the airline wheelchair. “They wouldn’t understand how I have spent the last two months recovering from an airline wheelchair fall at the Bombay airport,” Chaturvedi said.
SpiceJet regional manager (north) Rahul Bhatkoti said, “We have apologised to the passenger and will take corrective action. Clearly, the crew lacked awareness.” Chaturvedi, who has acted in a Feisal Alkazi play and the Indian adaptation of Sesame Street, was offered Coke after the trauma ended. “I have stopped drinking Coke. Not wanting to hurt their sensibilities, I took a sip and threw the rest when they weren’t looking,” he said.