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Sign bond to fly, blind exec told

Thu, 07/19/2012 - 16:25 -- admin

A high-flying city executive, who has travelled across the world and helped frame disabled-friendly guidelines for Indian airports, hit an air pocket at Patna last week when a private airline insisted he sign a bond before allowing him to board. The apparent reason: he is visually impaired, and was travelling alone.

Md Asif Iqbal, 34, did eventually board the Ranchi-bound Kingfisher Red flight, but only after signing an indemnity bond that cleared the carrier and its employees of any charge should something happen to him during the flight. Iqbal has no ailments. He lost his eyesight at 16 due to a genetic disorder.

But that has never been a hurdle for Iqbal, who did his BCom from St. Xavier's and MBA from Symbiosis. He has been working as principal consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers since May 2005 and is now engaged in the ambitious Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI) project led by former Infosys chief executive Nandan Nilekani. He was in Patna to interview students on behalf of an NGO that will sponsor their two-year stay in the city and coach them for the engineering entrance examination.

Iqbal has lodged a complaint with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), alleging discrimination and harassment. The airline brass has been summoned for an explanation. Iqbal, ironically, had participated in the consultations initiated by the DGCA to make airports disabled-friendly.

DGCA is probing an identical complaint against the airline. Shabnam Mansoori, who is also visually impaired, was not allowed to board a Kingfisher Mumbai-Ahmedabad flight on May 10. Mansoori's two kids were travelling with her.
A Kingfisher Airlines spokesperson told TOI in an email on Wednesday the company regretted the incident and had taken punitive action.

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