The airline lobby in India gains shorter turnaround times as DGCA introduces a discriminatory cap on the number of wheelchair passengers per flight.
On February 28, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation of India published the revision of the Civil Aviation Requirements for carriage of passengers with special needs.
The CAR introduces clearer rules and defines responsibilities between airlines and airports. In 2013, Reduced Mobility Rights was invited by the former director of DGCA to introduce its comments at revision stage.
DGCA picked up several suggestions, but failed to deliver on a core requirement, the clarification and relaxation of caps on the number of wheelchair passengers that can be carried on a given flight.
In the United States, airlines are forbidden from limiting the number of passengers with a disability who travel on a flight. In Europe, EASA's advice to airlines is that the number of Passengers with Reduced Mobility should not exceed the number of able-bodied persons capable of assisting with an emergency evacuation.
In its suggestions, Reduced Mobility Rights proposed DGCA adopt the European advice, as it provides a fair balance between inclusion and safety.
However, DGCA introduces a widely discriminatory rule, capping the number of wheelchair passengers to the number of cabin crew. Article 4.1.12 of the new CAR state “to ensure safety of aircraft operations, the maximum number of non-ambulatory persons with disability or reduced mobility permitted to travel in a single flight shall not be more than the number of cabin crew except when such passengers are accompanied by trained escorts.”
The new cap on passengers with mobility limitations completely disregards conclusions of the only existing research on emergency evacuation procedures for passengers with special needs. In 2010 the European Aviation Safety Agency published a report on its extensive study on carriage bu air of special categories of passengers.
Researchers found that cabin crew should not be focusing on assisting passengers with disabilities during an emergency evacuation. “According to the findings of the analysed studies and the risk assessment, the cabin crew should be responsible primarily for the evacuation of the entire aircraft and only then for the evacuation of individuals. It is not recommended to task the cabin crew primarily with the evacuation of SCPs or to obligate them to assist,” the final report says.
Enplaning and deplaning passengers with reduced mobility may cause significant delays in turnaround times, the time required to deplane and enplane passengers and cargo and refuel. Shorter turnaround times translate into higher profitability.
A handful of disreputable airlines, like Qantas owned Jetstar, impose a limit of two wheelchair passengers per flight, alleging safety as reason for the cap.
On 28 February 2014 India has taken a step back on inclusion, sanctioning discrimination against wheelchair passengers by means of a discredited safety requirement.