Air India’s wheelchair shortage claims elderly passenger’s life at Mumbai airport

The tragic incident occurred as the elderly man walked approximately 1.5 km from the plane to the immigration counter due to a shortage of wheelchairs.

| Updated: 16 February, 2024 1:03 pm IST
An 80-year-old Air India passenger died due to shortage of wheel chair at Mumbai airport

NEW DELHI: An 80-year-old Air India passenger, traveling from New York to Mumbai, collapsed and died at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport on Monday. The tragic incident occurred as the elderly man walked approximately 1.5 km from the plane to the immigration counter due to a shortage of wheelchairs.

The couple had pre-booked wheelchairs, but only the wife received one, leaving the husband to navigate the airport on foot. Air India spokesperson stated, “Due to heavy demand for wheelchairs, we had requested the passenger to wait till he was also provided with wheelchair assistance, but he opted to walk along with his spouse.”

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With 32 wheelchair passengers on the flight, only 15 wheelchairs were available with accompanying staff on the ground. The delayed flight, originally scheduled to land at 11:30 am, reportedly landed at 2:10 pm, exacerbating the situation.

The airport source revealed to a news agency, “Due to wheelchair shortage, only one wheelchair assistant showed up for the couple. The wife sat on the wheelchair, while the husband decided to follow her and walked alongside. He must have walked about 1.5 km to reach the immigration area where he suddenly collapsed due to a heart attack.”

The deceased, an Indian-origin US passport holder, was traveling in economy class on Air India flight AI-116. Despite immediate medical attention, he was pronounced dead at Nanavati Hospital.

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An alarming aspect of the incident was the lack of empathy in the face of physical disabilities at airports. In a separate incident at Kolkata airport in early February, a wheelchair-bound woman was asked to stand up during security clearance, emphasising the need for sensitivity and training among airport staff.

The airline expressed condolences and emphasised its efforts to assist the family, stating, “Air India was in constant touch with family members to extend any required assistance.”

This tragic event raises concerns about the adequacy of wheelchair facilities at airports, particularly for elderly passengers. As airports witness a rising number of wheelchair requests, the need for sufficient resources and trained personnel becomes crucial to avoid such distressing incidents.

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