Indian Aviation Authority Adds New Disability Clause For Airlines

On July 21st, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in India has come through on its promise to amend the rules that give Indian airlines absolute power to deny boarding to disabled passengers. The new rules, first proposed early last month, have been finally adopted, granting more rights to specially-abled passengers in India.

Some context

In May 2022, an incident where IndiGo staff denied boarding to a special needs child made national headlines in the south Asian country. The airline was heavily criticized by the general public and the DGCA for its actions, with the latter even slapping a hefty fine. Indian Civil Aviation Minister, Mr. Jyotiraditya M. Scindia, said he was personally investigating the matter and that ‘no human being should have to go through this!’


IndiGo drew considerable flak after denying boarding to a special needs child a few months ago. Photo: Getty Images

However, a simple monetary penalty wasn’t enough for the Indian aviation watchdog. The DGCA said it would review its own Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) regulations that deal with the handling of disabled passengers by airlines. As Simple Flying reported in early June, the regulator then said it would take away airlines’ powers to deny boarding to disabled passengers unilaterally.

Revised rules in detail

In a statement, the DGCA said it had amended Para 4.1.35 in Section 3, Series M, and Part 1 of the CAR rules. The previous rules dictated airlines could deny boarding to passengers based on disability if they believed transporting such passengers could adversely affect the safety of the flight. However, the carrier would still have to specify the exact reasons for this in writing.

According to the new Para 4.1.35, Indian carriers cannot refuse carriage on the basis of disability. Nevertheless, if airline staff believes that the health of certain passengers may deteriorate in flight, such passengers must be examined in person by a doctor. The medical professional will then state, in his opinion of him, if the passenger is fit to fly or not.

Airlines will have to take a doctor’s opinion before denying passengers boarding based on disability. Photo: Getty Images

Next, the airline will have to take “An appropriate decision” based on the doctor’s opinion. If the airline decides against carrying the passenger, it will have to inform them in writing with the reasons for the refusal immediately.

The full amended text says,

“Airline shall not refuse carriage of any person on the basis of disability and / or reduced mobility. However, in case, an airline perceives that the health of such a passenger may deteriorate in-flight, the said passenger will have to be examined by a Doctor in person who shall in his / her opinion, categorically state the medical condition and whether the passenger is fit to fly or not. After obtaining the medical opinion, the airline shall take an appropriate decision on the carriage of such passenger. In case of refusal of carriage by the airline, it shall inform the passenger in writing with the reasons therein immediately. “

Hopefully, the new rules will curb incidents of denied boarding to disabled passengers in India.

What do you make of the DGCA’s decision to amend its regulations? Do you think disabled passengers are treated appropriately by airlines?

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