Mother Claims Autistic 13-Year-Old Son Denied Wheelchair at Delhi's IGI Airport

July 15, 2019

A woman has alleged that her 13-year-old son, who suffers from autism and has Down Syndrome, was forced to lie on the floor after he fell sick and was denied a wheelchair by the Air India staff at Terminal 3 of Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport on Saturday. The woman was at the airport to board a flight to Kolkata with her family.

The woman, who took to social media and posted photos of her son lying on the terminal floor, said that she had to struggle with the airline staff for more than half-an-hour to manage to get a wheelchair. No one from the airport management approached her, she alleged.

The incident took place when Pronita Banerjee, a teacher at a school, who lives in Scotland, United Kingdom, was at the Delhi airport with her son Aryan and five other family members to board a flight to Kolkata.

“We were in India to tour Rajasthan. On Saturday, our Air India flight from Bikaner to Delhi got cancelled. Since we were scheduled to board a flight to Kolkata the same day, we decided to travel by road and reached Delhi after a 10-hour-long drive,” Banerjee said.

She said they reached Delhi around 5pm. “As we entered IGI Airport, my son Aryan, who suffers from Down Syndrome, autism and learning difficulties, fell sick. He was suffering from diarrhoea and I realised that I needed to take him to the toilet to clean him up. Since he could not stand up, I made him lie on the ground and asked the Air India staff inside the terminal for a wheelchair. But they asked me to check in first,” she said.

Banerjee added that instead of stepping forward to help, people made videos of her son lying helplessly on the floor.

“My son kept lying there for more than 20 minutes. It was only after my husband, Subhayu Bandyopadhyay, who is a doctor, and I screamed at the airline staff, one of them provided us with a wheelchair after more than half-an-hour,” she said.

Banerjee also took to social media and said that a video of her son might go viral soon in which he can be seen “being violently sick lying on the floor of Delhi airport with no one from the airport or Air India even having the decency to get a wheelchair for him or letting us access the toilet to clean him.”

“His dad was screaming and grandma was crying… some people were recording all this, no idea why. Obviously, we will never fly with Air India again and try to avoid Delhi airport,” she wrote on her Facebook.

Delhi airport operator, DIAL (Delhi International Airport Ltd) did not respond when asked about the incident.

Reacting to the incident, Air India said the family had initially tried to enter the airport from departure hall gate number 8, which is dedicated for staff only. “When they were stopped by the Central Industrial Security Force staff, they had an argument. The tussle continued for more than 20 minutes. This is when their child fell sick and lay on the floor,” said Air India spokesperson, Dhananjay Kumar.

Kumar said the airline keeps wheelchairs at gate number 1. “As soon as the airline staff learnt about the incident we provided the child with a wheelchair and our attendant remained with him for the next four hours,” he said.

First Published:

Jul 15, 2019 07:52 IST


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