Thursday, December 09, 2021

Airline staff at Bengaluru airport force 4-year-old to undergo Covid-19 test

Bengaluru: A four-year-old boy, a citizen of the United States, was forced to take the Covid-19 test at Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) after ground staff of a domestic airline refused to allow him to accompany his parents on a holiday to Port Blair without a negative report.

This is in clear violation of guidelines issued by the Union ministry of health and family welfare, which states those under five years of age are exempted from pre-departure and post-arrival tests and shows a lack of awareness about Covid-19 protocols among airline staff.

Rajdeep Ganguly, a top IT engineer with a major computer chipmaker, his wife and their four-year-old son, all US passport holders and residents of Koramangala, decided to go on a holiday to Port Blair in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. He booked tickets on Go First Airways (previously Go Air) and they were scheduled to fly out from KIA on flight G8 1802 on November 27.

The family arrived at the airport at 8am and were in for a rude shock when Go First’s ground staff at the check-in counter demanded an RTPCR negative report for their son. Ganguly and his wife are fully vaccinated and, as per rules, don’t need a negative test report.

“I explained to the airline staffer that protocol issued by the Union health ministry specifically exempts children below the age of five from RTPCR tests, but he refused to listen. He rudely replied that ‘if the boy tests negative, he flies with you’,” Ganguly said. The parents demanded that they be shown the clause in the rule book which mandates the test, but airline staff refused to listen.

Ganguly also contacted Andaman and Nicobar Islands Integrated Development Corporation Ltd to doubly ascertain if his son needs a negative report. When they landed in Port Blair later that day, they were told the test was “unnecessary”.

With Go First ground staff refusing to budge and time running out, the 43-yearold father rushed with the boy to the Auriga Research Covid testing centre outside the airport. Taking pity on their plight, some flyers allowed them to jump the queue and the child took the rapid PCR test. The duo then dashed back into the airport to collect a printout of the negative report.

The family was in for another shock when they handed in the result to the ground staff. “The Go First manager didn’t even bother looking at the result but checked the test payment receipt for Rs 3,000 and directed us towards boarding. There was another family at the time with an unwell child, but the airline staff didn’t spare them as well,” added the IT engineer.

09/12/21 Petlee Peter/Times of India

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