New Delhi: A female cancer patient, who recently underwent a surgery, was allegedly offloaded from a New York-bound flight of American Airlines at Delhi airport after she sought assistance from a flight attendant to keep her hand-bag in overhead cabin.
The incident was reported on January 30, and it came to light after the United States-based traveller, identified as Meenakshi Sengupta, lodged a complaint against the flight attendant accusing them of refusing to help her put the handbag weighing more than 5 pounds in the overhead cabin as she was unable to do so because of weak limbs.
In her complaint to the Delhi Police and the Civil Air, Meenakshi Sengupta said that she had also requested for wheelchair assistance to her seat, “I was also wearing a brace which was visible to everyone and they would know that I have some discomfort...because I CANNOT carry any weight in my hands at all and I’m weak from the surgery and don’t need to strain myself by walking a lot.”
She said, “The ground staff was very supportive and helped me get into the aircraft and put my handbag on the side of the seat. Once inside the flight, I had a conversation with the air hostess and I explained my health condition to them...None of them mentioned about putting my handbag away. After the flight was about to take off, cabin lights were dimmed. At that time an air hostess came to put my hand bag in the overhead compartment. I requested her to help me put it but she refused to do so and told me it’s not her job to do it.”
Sengupta further mentioned that she “repeatedly” asked her to assist but the latter rudely declined her request and asked her to do it on her own and walked away.
“She was extremely rude and arrogant with her words,” Sengupta alleged, adding when she went to complain about the incident the aircraft members were “largely indifferent” and told her that they did not want to interfere at all, she alleged.
“They said that if I’m so uncomfortable I should just de-board the flight. They were collective in their decision to deboard me,” Sengupta said.
The incident also went viral on social media, and people urging the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) and Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) to take note of the matter.
“Disgusting behaviour from @AmericanAir staff towards a #cancerpatient - Meenakshi Sengupta who was de-boarded from the flight for not putting her handbag up because cancer has made her arms weak and the crew won’t help. Shameful @DCWDelhi @SwatiJaiHind kindly note @Pib_MoCA,” tweeted. Quoting the incident, a Twitter user said.
Meanwhile, India’s regulator - the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) - has taken cognisance of the case and asked American Airlines to submit its report.
The airline, in its official statement, said that its Customer Relations team has reached out to Sengupta to refund the unused portion of her ticket.
“On January 30, prior to the departure of American Airlines flight 293 from Delhi (DEL) to New York (JFK), a disruptive customer was removed from the aircraft for failure to follow crew member instructions. Our Customer Relations team has reached out to the customer to refund the unused portion of their ticket,” the airline said, adding that a probe into the matter is underway.