Pushpa Girimaji, Hindustan Times
September 03, 2011
All new airports now have a drug store. However, if they are to serve any useful purpose, they must always have in stock medicines for common ailments such as fever, headache, body ache, cough and cold, blocked nose, eye irritation, allergy, acidity and diarrhea. But several consumers have complained of not getting some of these basic medicines,particularly paracetamol and acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) at airport chemists.
The Airports Authority needs to do some monitoring here and get rid of chemists who do not cater to the needs of travelers.
It is equally important to crack down on airlines that do not carry on board, certain essential medicines as mandated by the regulator or do not respond to passenger requests for medicines with alacrity.
Sometime ago, a reader had complained about not getting paracetamol on board an airline — his mother was travelling with him and needed a pain killer for her leg ache.
What passengers may not know is that as per the guidelines issued by the aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), all airlines have to carry a first-aid kit for eventualities like minor accidents or injuries suffered by passengers during travel.
In addition, those authorised to carry more than 100 passengers on a journey of over two hours duration have to also carry 'medical kits' containing life saving drugs.
The airlines also have to ensure that these medicines are not old or past their shelf life and the medical equipment or instruments are in proper working condition. For this reason, they have to be inspected and certified by a registered medical practitioner once a year.
The kits have to be in a sealed condition and once the seal is broken, the kit should be replenished, certified and sealed again. Ensuring the presence of these sealed certified kits on board is mandatory before take off.
In March this year, the DGCA issued a revised circular (Civil Aviation Requirements Section 2, Series X, Part III, Revision 5) regarding ‘Provision of medical supplies in aircraft’ — requiring domestic and international flights to carry first-aid kits to deal with injuries on board, medical kits containing life saving drugs.
In addition, universal protection kits for cabin crew in managing incidents of ill health associated with suspected communicable diseases. The circular lists out all the medicines and medical equipment required to be carried by the airlines, including anti-allergic, anti-spasmodic, analgestic, anti-pyretic, anti-angina, tablets. So airlines cannot afford to take the plea that they do not have them.
PK Gupta: In the last week of February, as I reached the airport, I felt a severe pain in my left hand. I did not know what it was, but decided to take an aspirin to be on the safer side. However, the airport chemist at Delhi did not have aspirin. After boarding, the plane did not take off for some time and I requested the air hostess to give me aspirin, but she did not have it either. Is it not necessary for airlines to carry these medicines? What action can be taken in cases such as this against the airline?
Answer: I have already answered part of your question. As for the action that you can take, first and foremost, complain to the DGCA.
You can also seek compensation from the airline through the consumer court, if you suffered as a result of not taking aspirin.
Consumer courts have held that failing to carry out the mandate of the regulator constitutes negligence on the part of the service provider and here the airline is guilty of such negligence. So you have a good case.