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Uplifting note for the disabled

india Updated: Feb 08, 2009 13:16 IST
Sidhartha Roy
Sidhartha Roy
Hindustan Times
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In a few months, air passengers who are disabled or with reduced mobility would not have to pay any extra charges to airlines for wheelchairs or ‘ambulifts’.

At present, there are no rules to stop airlines or airport operators from charging passengers with special needs for providing them ambulifts, stretchers or wheelchairs at the airport. An ambulift is a special hydraulic vehicle that lifts wheelchair bound passengers, who can’t climb stairs, directly to the aircraft door.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation is going to amend a Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) that deals with ‘carriage by air of persons with disability and/ or persons with reduced mobility’.

The new rule states ‘once a passenger has bought a ticket for travel, it is obligatory on part of the airline that he reaches the aircraft from the departure lounge, and at the end of the journey from the aircraft to the arrival lounge exit, without incurring further expenditure.’

“Any passenger holding a valid air ticket shouldn’t have to pay anything extra to reach the aircraft from the terminal and back. It is the airline’s and airport operator’s responsibility to provide the passenger stretchers, wheelchairs or ambulifts free of cost,” said a senior DGCA official who is not authorised to talk to media.

“Though not all airlines charge for these services, some low-cost airlines used to charge Rs. 500 for providing wheelchairs. The charge was changed to Rs. 200 after we told them it’s not right to do so,” the official said.

However, since there was no rule to govern such charges, each airline follows its own policy. “The charges had to be declared in advance though. After the amendment, however, they wouldn’t be able to charge anything,” he said.

While many airlines provide wheelchairs for free, passengers are charged for using ambulifts.