Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Am I being heard?

A month and a half back, I wrote on my ongoing woes with domestic air travel. Since I had specifically named Jet Airways in that post, I decided to write to their customer care email address and give them a link to my blog-post. I was pleasantly surprised to receive a phone call from a lady in Mumbai asking if there was any way she might be able to help. I told her that I wanted to meet someone senior in the organisation who might be able to give me some piece of paper regarding the entitlements of a person traveling with a personal wheelchair, so that I would not need to go through the same ridiculous objections again and again. As she was in Mumbai and I was in Chennai, she asked somebody in their Chennai office to get in touch with me. When that Chennai contact called me, and I said I wanted to meet as senior a person as possible in Jet Airways, she wanted to know why. When I expressed a desire to carry a piece of paper signed by such an authority as to precisely what were the entitlements of a person with disability traveling with his personal wheelchair, she told me that such a document could not be given, but that I could inform her whenever I planned on flying on their airline.

I flew from Chennai to Bangalore a few days ago on Jet Airways, and was surprised to receive an email from them asking me to tell them about my experience of the flight I had just taken. I thought I might as well put that up on my blog, too! The first false note was struck at check-in when the lady at the counter told us our baggage was overweight - because she included the weight of my wheelchair which had to be checked in. After the same discussion we have had innumerable times at innumerable aiports, we were allowed to conince her that airlines are obliged to transport such assistive devices at no extra cost to the passenger. The next hiccup involved the seats we were allotted. There were two passengers who had needed to be brought in a wheelchair to the craft; and both of us were seated in row 15 - bang in the middle of the plane, so that we had to walk some amount till we could get to our seat. I do not know why this was necessary, since I have been seated in the second row from the back in the past. Is it so hard to have a uniformly applied, and sensitively designed set of practices which would minimise the hardships/inconveniences that persons with disability have to face when they fly?

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