The Year Ahead - Clearer Skies?

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The end of 2007 saw the ENAT and ICAT conferences on Inclusive Tourism. Early January 2008 will be the SAT conference and may 2008 will see the IIDI Turismo para Todos conference. At the same time ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities continues at a rapid pace.

With so much progress on the stabilization of human rights for persons with disabilities the actions of the Federation of Indian Airlines to subvert the ' Carriage by Air of Disabled Persons or Persons with Reduced Mobility' proposed by India's Office of The Director General of Civil Aviation is especially out of step with the global consensus on the value of travelers with disabilities as a market. One would think that no one in the industry is doing their diligence on market forecasting.

Dear Kiki and Friends,

I would like to thank you for your responses...and I will go through the attachment you have sent.

In the meanwhile there has been a new development in India on the 30th Dec 2007 - this time by the FIA - Federation of Indian Airlines.

The FIA are not ready to accept the new guideline on ' Carriage by Air of Disabled Persons or Persons with Reduced Mobility' proposed by DCGA (Office of The Director General of Civil Aviation). The same was to come into force from 1st Jan 2008. I have attached the draft guideline with this mail for your reference. And in the last few months we had strongly lobbied for many changes before this final draft.

FIA says "Free help to disabled can't be enforced" - kindly read on for the article that was published in yesterday's news paper for your reference.

Kind Regards

Mahesh

'Free help to disabled can't be enforced', Times of India, 30th Dec 2007

NEW DELHI: The government's first attempt to regulate pricing policy of airlines could come to naught and add to the costs of physically challenged passengers.

Following several complaints from disabled rights groups, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had about a month back issued a draft civil aviation requirement (CAR) on the subject. Among other things, it asked airlines to mandatorily provide free assistance to such passengers. The rule was to go into effect from January 1.

While most airlines currently provide wheelchairs, stretchers and ambulifts free, they have strongly opposed making the free service compulsory. The Federation of Indian Airlines — a joint body of Air India, Jet, Kingfisher, Deccan, GoAir, IndiGo, Paramount and SpiceJet — has said that the industry must be free to recover any extra cost that's incurred in the process of providing assistance to handicapped passengers.

Saying airlines are aware of their responsibilities towards physically challenged passengers, FIA has submitted its reply to the CAR to the ministry and DGCA.

"FIA believes that the issue of costs and cost-recovery for such special facilities cannot be mandated through the CAR. In our consultation with members, all carriers have expressed their strong opposition to airlines being denied the right to charge and recover costs for service provided," it said.

It goes on to add: "No other passengers are provided services free of charge. Any additional service should necessarily come at a charge to the passenger using the service, else the increased costs will need to be borne by the other airline passengers which is unfair. Airlines should be allowed to independently decide the charges, which certainly should be communicated clearly to passengers."

It has pointed out that the earlier CAR of July, 2005, allows airlines to charge for any additional service provided to passengers with special needs.


The new CAR stipulated that no airline would refuse to carry persons on a stretcher if they are accompanied by an escort who would look after them in flight. While FIA agrees to this, it says: "However, the carriage must be paid for. For example, a stretcher requires displacing nine seats that would otherwise be sold as revenue. It must be clear that these seats must be reserved in advance and paid for."

Similarly, the new rules say that all airlines must provide assistance to persons with disabilities/reduced mobility from the departing airport terminal to the destination airport terminal without any additional charge. "The Airlines strongly disagree with this statement. It is one thing to provide service, another to do it for free. No other passengers are provided free-of-charge services," the FIA has said.

Asked about this stand, a member airline of FIA said that most carriers provide these services free of charge and may even continue to do so. "But the decision to charge or provide assistance free must be the commercial decision of airlines. It can't be legally mandated," he said. This is not the first time airlines are spurning government's moves on influencing their charges. While the aviation ministry strongly opposed the term "congestion surcharge", airlines continue to levy it.

saurabh.sinha@timesgroup.com http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/Free_help_to_disabled_cant_be_enforced/articleshow/2661352.cms

****************************** Response to the Article **********************

31.12.07

Dear Mr. Saurabh,


Greetings and thank you very much for publishing the article titled "Free help to Disabled Can't be enforced"

This is a significant development and a new hurdle posed by The Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA) towards the new Civil Aviation guidelines by DGCA for "Carriage by Air of Disabled Persons or Persons with Reduced Mobility".


In the last few months, we as a group of disabled persons have been lobbying with the DGCA in drafting these guidelines and finally when it was to come into effect from 1 Jan 2008 - the FIA has sprung a surprise.

We as persons with disabilities are not asking for free service, we want to use the services like any other passengers. However the limitations posed by the procedures adopted by the different airlines further reduces our mobility and prevents us from using the airline just like any other.


Some examples that prevent us are highlighted below:


1. From the point of check-in - the airline asks us to use the wheelchair provided by them - these wheechairs cannot be self-propelled and therefore we need a ground staff.


2. The airline do not handle our personal wheelchair safely and many times they have broken my wheelchair because of their careless attitude.


3. Where ever there is an aerobridge facility passengers using wheelchair are not given access to use them and they are not alloted the first row of seats - because of which we physically lifted by 3-4 persons with our wheelchair up and down the stairs to the aircraft.


4. We cannot use the buses/ transport facilities provided by the airline on the tramac as there are steps and no ramps to get into the coach. Therefore we need assistance to be lifted up and down from the bus or wheeled on the tarmac till the aircraft.


5. There are no wheelchair accessible toilets in many of the airport, the ones that are built are not according to standard specifications therefore one needs assistance to access the toilets.


Who is to be blamed for creating such obstacles? Why should the passenger using wheelchair or a person with limited mobility bear the cost towards these procedural and architectural barriers created by the airlines and at the airports.


Closing with warm regards


Mahesh


****************** A Prior Violation of Rights ******************************

Dear Friends,

Greetings,

Through this mail I would like to highlight the practice adopted by some of the airlines where passengers using wheelchairs have to sign in the "APPLICATION FOR THE CARRIAGE OF MEDICAL PASSENGER".

The most offending paragaraph in the 'APPLICATION' that we as passengers using wheelchair are forced to sign reads as follows -

"I the undersigned .....hereby indemnify and hold harmless, DECCAN from any and against any liability arising out of any bodily injury, and / or death. damage or loss that I may suffer/ experience and also from any damages, payments, expenses, face and cost which DECCAN may incur directly or indirectly as a result of accepting me on its Flight No. .........from ....... to ...... on date.....

I hereby further indemnify DECCAN from any payments that DECCAN makes to meet any of my expenses towards damages, loss etc for the said purpose."

This I feel is both humiliating and discriminating towards persons with limited mobility.

Do passengers with limited mobility have to sign similar forms in other countries too before boarding the flight?

Please find below my letters written to both the Commissioner (Disabilities) and DGCA (Director General Civil Avaiation) highlighting this practice and with suggested changes.

Closing with best wishes for Christmas and New Year...

Kind regards

Mahesh

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

24.12.2007
To
The Commissioner (Disabilities)
Office of the Commissioner Disabilities
Govt. of Karnataka
40, Thambuchetty Road, Cox Town
Bangalore. Email: discom@vsnl.net

Copy
Mr. R. P. Sahi
Jt. Director General
Office of the
Director General of Civil Aviation
Opp. Safdarjung Airport
New Dehli – 110 003
Tel: 011-24611504. Email: rpsahi@dgca.nic.in

Respected Sir,

Greetings,

This letter is to bring to your kind notice the prevailing discriminatory practice adopted by some of the airlines who force passengers who use wheelchairs to sign the "APPLICATION FOR THE CARRIAGE OF MEDICAL PASSENGER" before boarding the flight.

Although, I, as a passenger who uses wheelchair did clarify that I am not a medical passenger, the ground staff are in no mood to listen and we are left with no choice but to fill and submit the form if not we should be prepared to miss our flight.

In this connection, I would like to quote my recent experience:

During my recent return journey from Kolkata to Bangalore by AIR DECCAN on 18th Nov 2007, I was asked to fill the "APPLICATION FOR THE CARRIAGE OF MEDICAL PASSENGER" as I use a wheelchair. I did argue that I am not a "MEDICAL PASSENGER" but the ground staff were in no mood to listen. Therefore I filled in the form during check-in but deliberately did not submit the same while boarding the aircraft.

The most offending paragaraph in the 'APPLICATION' that we are forced to sign reads as follows -

"I the undersigned .....hereby indemnify and hold harmless, DECCAN from any and against any liability arising out of any bodily injury, and / or death. damage or loss that I may suffer/ experience and also from any damages, payments, expenses, face and cost which DECCAN may incur directly or indirectly as a result of accepting me on its Flight No. .........from ....... to ...... on date.....

I hereby further indemnify DECCAN from any payments that DECCAN makes to meet any of my expenses towards damages, loss etc for the said purpose."

Firstly, I personally feel that it is the duty of all the airlines to protect the safety of all passengers. But by signing the above form - the airline is not taking the responsibility to ensure the safety of passenger like me who use the wheelchair.

Secondly, the airline should make appropriate changes in the systems and built environment so that we can use our personal wheelchair (as much as possible) till we transfer to the seat of the aircraft. This procedure will assist us to be comfortably seated in our own wheelchair instead of sitting on the very small and uncomfortable chairs provided by the airlines for more than an hour.

Thirdly, passenger using wheelchairs should be give permission to use the aerobridge facility where available. These change will prevent the ground staff of the airline ground from physically lifting us up and down the flight of stairs to the aircraft. The practice that is both humiliating and extremely dangerous especially for the person who is being lifted.

Fourthly, in recent times DGCA has issued a new Guidelines on "Carriage by Air of Disabled Persons or Persons with Reduced Mobility" that is going to come into effect from 1st Jan 2008 and has taken into account some of the issues mentioned by me in my letter. However, I am not aware if any strategy for dissemenation/ training has been planned for all the ground staff of the different airlines at the airports on the need to "Respect the Rights and Dignity of Passengers with Disabilities".

Therefore, it my sincere appeal to your esteemed office to initiate appropriate steps to prevent this discriminatory and humiliating practice adopted by the airlines towards passengers with limited mobility.

Looking forward for your kind reply.

With kind regards

C. Mahesh

--
C. Mahesh
Advocacy Coordinator
CBR Forum
14, CK Garden
Wheeler Road Extension
Bangalore - 560 084
Tel - 080- 2549 7387 or 2549 7388
advocacy.cbrforum@gmail.com
cbrforum@blr.vsnl.net.in
cbrforum@gmail.com
www.cbrforum.in

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