Even the skies don’t care for blind people in India. After Kingfisher Airlines recently made a woman get off a flight because she was blind, we ran a reality check on other domestic airlines and found that contrary to international practices, most carriers in India do not allow blind people to travel independently.
When we called the tele-booking counters for Jet Airways, Kingfisher, Spice Jet, Go Air and Indigo, requesting to book a ticket for a blind adult who would travel unaccompanied, all of the above refused.
While Jet Airways demanded that a co-passenger with sight accompany the passenger, the operator at Indigo’s counter insisted that a guide dog, along with a ‘moisture absorbing’ mat for it, is a must with the passenger. Kingfisher and Spice Jet, too, refused to allow such a passenger unless accompanied by an adult with sight.
Later, when we contacted the same airlines’ corporate offices for clarity on their rules, most spokespersons evaded the question or said they’ll revert after checking the rulebook. An Indian Airlines official, however, said, “We have escorts for blind passengers at the airport, and we’ve never had any complaints.”
On May 10, Shabnam Mansoori, a resident of Ahmedabad, who was flying to Goa with her two minor sons, was taken off a Kingfisher Airlines flight at the Mumbai airport. The staff said she could not fly as she was blind. "I had flown the same airlines from Ahmedabad to Mumbai. Then why didn’t they let me take a connecting flight to Goa?” she asks. “The government must act to ensure that blind travellers are treated with dignity,” says Mansuri’s husband Sameer, who is also blind and claims to have faced a similar predicament earlier.
The ministry of Civil Aviation remained unavailable for comment.