Disability should not be a ground to deny boarding, DGCA tells airlines

After outrage, the regulator amends rules and asks operators to seek medical opinion

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has amended its rules on carrying persons with disabilities and has clearly stated that disability should not be a ground for an airline to deny boarding to a passenger.

The revised norms follow outrage over IndiGo refusing a teen with special needs permission to board a flight from Ranchi to Hyderabad in May. The airline said the child was in a state of “panic” and a threat to flight safety, but the DGCA found IndiGo “deficient” in its handling of the passenger and imposed a penalty of ₹5 lakh after an inquiry.

“Airline shall not refuse carriage of any person based on disability and/ or reduced mobility,” states the DGCA’s Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) on Carriage by Air – Persons with Disability. It adds that if it is perceived that such a passenger’s health could deteriorate during a flight, the airline will have to obtain a doctor’s opinion categorically stating the medical condition and whether the passenger is fit to fly or not. Following this, the airline may decide to refuse boarding to a passenger but only after providing a written explanation.

The earlier version of this CAR only required airlines to provide a reason for denying boarding to a disabled person but didn’t call for a medical opinion. Nor did the rules state upfront that disability will not be a ground for refusing a passenger permission to board a plane.

Airlines are also required to assist disabled passengers in uninterrupted travel to the aircraft during departure and the exit gate after the aircraft has landed at the destination. As per DGCA rules, passengers with disabilities have to board and disembark separately, and efforts should be made to ensure speedy clearance for them and their baggage.

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