Air India Passengers Irked By Wheelchair Charges

Monday, 1st September 2014 at 03:01am

In his recent trip from Dubai to Lucknow in India, Talat Khan, accompanied by some members of her family, boarded an Air India flight back home when she got a shocking surprise of her life: They were not allowed to use the wheelchair unless they pay an extra Dh300 for the service.

What?! Their jaws dropped in utter disbelief as if trying to figure out what makes it so special about the wheelchair that their mom was going to use.

Khan's daughter said that her mom badly needed a wheelchair to be able to get to the aircraft because she had both her knees freshly operated. She found it quite absurd to pay with such amount, which she claimed was about 57% of a passenger ticket. A one-way ticket from Dubai to Lucknow cost Dh520.

The family must have ran out of cash due to the medical expenses of their mom, they decided to do away with wheelchair service and instead asked assistance from fellow passengers to help her mom get to the aircraft from the bus.

A similar incident also happened to another passenger, when she and her father boarded an Air India flight from Dubai to Amritsar in February this year. She narrated that they also had a bad experience with the airline when they were asked to pay a hefty amount for the wheelchair for her dad. Without much options, she was forced to pay the insanely huge amount just to have her dad get onto the plane.

However, an airline official from its regional office told a different story. Rajneesh Bagga, the regional manager for the airline's Gulf, Middle East and Africa operations, claimed that Air India doesn't charge any fee for its wheelchair and similar services for persons with special needs.

He revealed, however, that a third party or a contractor is handling its ground services in UAE airports where Air India operates. But he assured that the fees have already been pared down since August 1.

In Dubai, for example, the new fee for an ambulift, which eases the wheelchair-bound passenger up to his seat, is now free. The wheelchair service, however, is still with a fee, at Dh135, down from Dh163.

In Sharjah Airport, the charge is Dh100 for the wheelchair and Dh300 for the ambulift.

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