Thursday, October 26, 2017

Airlines can’t meet rise in wheelchair requests

Chennai: Airlines are bogged down by wheelchair requests at the Chennai airport by passengers who can walk, with many senior citizens booked on international flights preferring to use the facility to avoid queues at check-in, customs and immigration. Most of these passengers travel on routes where they have to get down and change planes at transit hubs like Dubai, Singapore, Frankfurt or London.
This keeps the ground handling staff busy during peak hours and sometimes delays wheelchairs for genuine disabled passengers who have to wait for long hours outside the terminal. However, airlines are helpless because there are no rules to filter wheelchair requests. Departing passengers can book wheelchairs online or approach the airline staff at the international terminal. The airport authorities have kept telephones at a booth outside the terminal for passengers to summon airline staff.
A senior Airports Authority of India (AAI) official said, "This has been the norm for some time. But there has been an increase probably because the number of senior citizens travelling abroad has gone up. People who can walk also apply for wheelchair assistance in the international terminal so that they can breeze through immigration checks, customs and security checks where wheelchair passengers get priority."
He said that in most of the cases, the passengers give a tip to the wheelchair handlers and walk into the plane when they near the aerobridge. Air Passengers Association of India national president D Sudhakara Reddy said, "I once saw 75 wheelchair passengers on a flight to Frankfurt when I travelled to Munich recently. This is misuse of a facility meant for disabled passengers."
26/10/17 V Ayyappan/Times of India

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