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Saturday, 20 April 2013

No wheelchair for elders at airport

The Airports Authority of India (AAI) collects Rs.45 per head from non-passengers for letting them enter the lounge of the newly built Rs.130-crore airport terminal building here.

But it does not provide as basic a necessity as a wheelchair to the aged and differently-abled persons.
Those who visit the airport, either to see off their friends and relatives or welcome them on arrival, have to either stand, however long it takes, near the entrance to the terminal as there is no seating arrangement in the place or purchase entry tickets to get seated in the lounge.

Despite choosing to pay a heavy sum for a seat, the aged and infirm are not provided with wheelchairs to facilitate their travel from the vehicles to the lounge. They are forced to walk down the entire stretch with the assistance of the railings because wheelchairs are offered only to passengers.

When contacted, an airport official said that non-provision of chairs near the entrance to the terminal was in accordance with AAI norms as none of the airports in the country had such a facility.

“Placing chairs outside the terminal would be like inviting trouble. It will be very difficult to control the crowd,” he added. On the issue of providing wheelchairs, he pointed out that it was not the AAI but the individual airlines concerned which were providing wheelchairs to their passengers. Either the airline staff or the ground handling agents of the airlines were entrusted with the responsibility.

“When it is the airlines concerned and not the AAI, which provides wheelchairs even to the passengers, who are our priority, then how can you expect us to provide wheelchairs to those who accompany the passengers? There is no such system in any of the airports,” the official said.

The official also said that the entry fee of Rs.45 was a “nominal” amount which does not match the amount spent by the AAI in maintaining the terminal and therefore such payment would not entitle the ticket holders to facilities such as provision of wheelchairs. However, an elderly woman, who had come to the airport recently, found it very difficult to hobble with a walking stick as the airport staff in the ticket counter expressed inability to provide her a wheelchair.

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