New Delhi: The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) served more than 20 show-cause notices to Air India, its cabin crew and pilots on Thursday for the airline’s “unprofessional conduct” in failing to respond suitably when a passenger urinated on a co-traveller on a New York-Delhi flight in November.
The aviation safety regulator has issued show-cause notices to “accountable manager of M/s Air India, Director in-flight services of M/s Air India, all the pilots and cabin crew members of that flight as to why enforcement action should not be taken against them for dereliction of their regulatory obligations,” the DGCA said in a press statement.
The Delhi Police registered an FIR against the accused on Wednesday based on the complaint given by the victim to Air India. The police said the Mumbai-based accused, Shankar Mishra, is the vice-president of the India chapter of a U.S. multinational financial services company with headquarters in California. He is absconding. According to police, they have written to immigration authorities on Thursday to issue Look Out Circular (LOC) against him.
After the notice, Air India has responded, sources said, listing all measures taken on the flight after the horrifying act.
Air India said that the aggrieved passenger had initially demanded action against the offender but rescinded her request after a mutual understanding between them, sources said.
“The female passenger initially requested that action be taken against the offender upon arrival, however subsequently rescinded her request after the two parties appeared to sort the matter out between them,” the airline said in its response.
“Cabin crew reported the incident to the Commander and logged it in the Voyage Report. As there was no further flare up or confrontation, and respecting the perceived wishes of the female passenger, crew elected not to summon law enforcement upon landing,” the airline further added.
According to sources, Air India cited that the cabin crew assisted the elderly passenger to a different seat in the same class and provided a set of dry clothes and slippers. The woman, in a letter to Tata Group Chairman N Chandrasekaran, stated that she was not allocated a different seat and had to take a crew seat for the rest of the flight as she refused to sit in her soiled, urine-soaked seat.
The heavily intoxicated traveller allegedly urinated on an elderly lady passenger on Air India’s flight 102 from New York to Delhi, but the airline didn’t restrain the passenger or hand him over to the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) when the aircraft landed and instead allowed him to travel onwards to Mumbai. The lady was also forced to sit on the urine-soaked seat for a part of her journey as the airline failed to accommodate her in First Class where there were seats vacant.
In scathing remarks against the airline, the DGCA said that the airline’s conduct was “unprofessional and led to a systemic failure” as it failed to comply with provisions for dealing with unruly passengers.
Not only did a lack of a suitable response reflect that it was “devoid of empathy” but also that it didn’t understand regulatory obligations as described under various regulations such as Aircraft Rules 1937, Civil Aviation Requirements of Handling of Unruly Passengers, Cabin Safety circular, and Air India’s own Operations Manual and Quick Reference Handbook, the DGCA said.
The airline failed to bring the incident to the DGCA’s attention, and an FIR was registered more than a month later on December 28. Though airline sources say that the lady passenger was reluctant to report the matter to authorities and had even entered into some sort of a “settlement” after the male passenger apologised profusely, Air India will be probed for failing to comply with various regulatory provisions that require mandatory reporting to the regulator, steps taken to proactively identify and prevent an unruly conduct by a passenger and ensuring safety of passengers and aircraft following a mid-flight incident.