An Indian airline, IndiGo, has come under fire after it did not allow a child with special needs on board one of its flights at Ranchi airport over the weekend.
The incident not only attracted widespread criticism from social media users, but also forced the country's aviation minister to intervene in the matter.
The incident took place on Saturday and came to light after a co-passenger, Manisha Gupta, posted about it on Facebook. The post explained how the teenager was deemed "a flight risk," by IndiGo officials since he looked visibly distressed after a long drive to the airport.
"By the time he had gone through security check and reached the gate (almost an hour ahead of boarding), he seemed to be in the throes of hunger, thirst, anxiety and confusion," wrote Gupta.
She added that his parents were able to calm the boy, and other passengers also offered their support to the couple. However, when an IndiGo manager noticed the child, he warned his parents that he will not let the family board the flight if the teenager did not become "normal."
"Then we witnessed the full display of brute authority and power," she said. "The IndiGo staff announced that the child would not be allowed to take the flight. That he was a risk to other passengers. That he would have to become 'normal', before he could be travel-worthy."
She further stated that IndiGo officials at the airport did not even listen to their fellow passengers who were willing to offer their support to the family. The post elaborated how a group of doctors also promised to provided full support to the family if any unexpected "health episode" occurs onboard the flight.
The argument continued for almost 45 minutes, but the officials did not let the family board the flight, added Gupta.
India's civilian aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia has condemned the incident and has ordered an investigation into the matter. "There is zero tolerance towards such behaviour. No human being should have to go through this!" tweeted Scindia.
Meanwhile, IndiGo in a statement issued on Monday stood by its actions and added that it does "regret" what transpired at the airport. CEO Ronojoy Dutta said that the airline "took the best possible decision under difficult circumstances."
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is also probing the incident and has asked for a report from IndiGo, according to a report in NDTV.