Friday, December 31, 2021

Report sans QR code: Couple denied boarding at Bengaluru airport

Bengaluru: A couple en-route to the Maldives for their honeymoon was denied boarding at Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) after they produced a handwritten RT-PCR negative report issued by the health department of the Nagpur Municipal Corporation which didn’t feature a quick response (QR) code. The civil aviation ministry mandates a Covid negative report with QR code for international travellers.

Chartered accountant Bhavesh Gehani, 26, and college lecturer Urmila Nagpal, 24, from Nagpur tied the knot on December 6, 2021 and planned to fly to the Maldives for their honeymoon.

As per a pre-booked holiday package worth Rs 2.5 lakh, the two landed at Bengaluru airport on December 9, 2021 to catch the Air India AI 265, a direct flight to Male scheduled to take off at 2.55pm.

But a shocker awaited the couple. “We produced a hard copy of the RT-PCR negative report issued by the Nagpur corporation to the ground staff of Air India along with the negative report ascertainment text from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) website. But we were not allowed to travel further as the staff demanded a report with QR code,” Bhavesh said.

Faced with the possibility of their honeymoon being disrupted, the couple desperately tried to download their reports with QR codes from the ICMR portal at the Bengaluru terminal but were unsuccessful due some technical issues. By then, the Air India staff began the process of removing their bags from the plane.

“Finally, we managed to retrieve the reports from the ICMR portal and produced them at 2.30pm before the departure gate staff, who denied us boarding. My wife and I pleaded with them to allow us as we were heading for our honeymoon but they refused to listen,” said a dejected Bhavesh who had to reschedule the trip.

Forced to cancel the tickets on Air India to Male, the couple booked an IndiGo flight the following day by paying Rs 46,000 one way. The couple has approached Air India for a refund claiming the rules on RT-PCR test reports were unclear to passengers and questioned as to how a government health department’s report was not acceptable for air travel.

31/12/21 Petlee Peter/Times of India

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