A 32-year-old paraplegic passenger travelling on an Air India flight (AI945) to Abu Dhabi had to go through a nightmarish experience, after her checked-in baggage, carrying a portable wheelchair and a toilet chair, did not arrive at the destination.
The incident took place on December 29, 2014.
According to Bharti Gehani’s complaint to AI, the airline took more than two days to deliver her wheelchair and the toilet chair.
“Being a paraplegic, I am unable to move without a wheelchair. For two days, I had to depend on other people for using the washroom,” said Gehani, a public relation professional in Mumbai.
On Monday, the AI spokesperson told HT they were unable to comment on the matter as they were awaiting feedback from their ground staff in Abu Dhabi. The AI customer care department’s last communication with Gehani on January 10 also sought time, as the ‘relevant department’ had not responded. HT has reviewed the exchange of emails between the complainant and the airline.
“I was in a foreign land stranded at the airport with no assistance from the airline staff,” said Gehani. After picking her from the airport, Gehani’s cousins visited all the major hospitals looking for a wheelchair on rent, but the efforts were futile.
“I had to be put on a plastic chair carried by four people and another person to hold my feet just to get home,” said the Khar resident.
Although the AI staff sent her a wheelchair, it was ‘unusable’ as the seat was broken and screws had come off, she said. Unable to bear the ordeal, Gehani finally decided to buy a used wheelchair for 600 UAE Dirham (Rs10,177).
Gehani’s troubles allegedly began at the Mumbai airport itself. The airline made her wait for 50 minutes at the check-in counter to arrange for an aisle wheelchair, she said.
On board the flight, she was unable to use the lavatory, as there was no cabin wheelchair. The same problem surfaced after reaching Abu Dhabi, as she found no assistance to get out of the plane. About 50 minutes later, the airline arranged a small wheelchair, which entered the aircraft but could not come to her seat.
“Eventually the crew carried me to the small wheelchair and then shifted me to a regular one at the airport gate,” Gehani said. “I have travelled across the globe in the past six year. Never did I face such poor treatment.”