When Divya George boarded Scoot Airline from Singapore on Thursday, her family of three (she, her husband, and their five-year-old child) were thrilled to finally go for their much-awaited three-day vacation to Phuket, Thailand. Little did they know that the trip would become memorable for all the wrong reasons, even before it started.
The family did not expect in their wildest dreams that they would be asked to deplane by the captain of the flight, unless they seated their differently-abled child in a specific way. George’s daughter has a muscular disorder that makes her incapable of being in control of her limbs.
In a telephonic conversation with InUth, George, who is originally from Kochi in Kerala, said, “My daughter may be five years old, but she’s as good as an infant as she is unable to hold her head up. She weighs about 9 kgs and I kept telling the captain and the staff that she would hurt herself if she was made to sit in a separate seat because she has to be held in a specific way. We usually buy her a separate seat but we have to hold her in our lap because of her condition.”
The couple has travelled with their child to 11 countries and have taken precisely 67 flights in five years but have usually been accommodated by the airlines. George put up a post on Facebook about the ordeal but was met with backlash after people started abusing her for not buying a separate seat for her child.
Venting her frustration at the comments, she wrote in a post, “Today I’m distraught to say the least. Let me start by staying my daughter has taken 67 FLIGHTS to be precise in her 5 years. (For those assuming it was our first flight and we don’t buy her a separate ticket, and we’re cheapskate Indians etc) We’ve always flown with her. While we’ve usually faced small problems on any airline with regard to her having an infant seatbelt because she HAS HER OWN SEAT (they somehow refuse even though she’s less than 9kgs) the airline always come though for us. The Capt comes out, takes a look at her, sees inspite of the fact that she has a full ticket – she can’t sit, permits use of the infant seatbelt and all is fine.”
Scoot Airlines is part of the Singapore Airlines Group Singaporean low-cost airline owned by Singapore Airlines through its subsidiary Budget Aviation Holdings. It launched flights in June 2012 on medium and long-haul routes from Singapore, predominantly to China and India.
“While we may provide assistance, including wheelchairs and high lift (where available at the airport), from check-in to boarding to seating, guests must still be able to travel reasonably independently, including the ability to self-medicate, eat and toilet. As with any airline, there are limits on the assistance we can provide due to crew capacity, aircraft size, occupational health and safety rules and safety policies,” the Scoot website says.
“I understand that an airline has to follow a set of protocols that they have to abide by, however, I don’t understand how no other flight had a problem. All of them made sure that basic safety measures were in place and had no problem if my daughter sat on my lap. I keep going to and fro Kochi and have never faced such an ordeal that we had to go through this time,” Divya told InUth.
Divya added that not only the crew and the captain were uncooperative and that the latter refused to speak to her for almost an hour. “The captain cited safety reasons for his inability to let us fly while holding her on our lap with an infant seat belt. But he refused to come out and speak to us for an hour and had SAT tell us we could either deboard or leave our daughter on her own seat. Finally, when we did speak to him, we mentioned that she could hurt herself and could slide off the seat, to which he said that in that case ‘the airline could be accountable then’,” she said.
The flight that was scheduled to take off at 7.45 am, took off an hour and 15 minutes late. “My husband and I refused to deboard so we had to hold our daughter in place in the middle seat. We had to hold her neck and legs in place or else we would not have been able to stay on the flight. Not only was this uncomfortable for my daughter, it also put her at risk of injuring herself,” Divya said.
Several attempts to contact Singapore Airlines have failed, this copy will be updated if the airline responds.