Mumbai businessman booked for incident on New York-Delhi flight
After a media outcry over lack of action against a drunk man who urinated on an elderly woman passenger on a New York-Delhi flight, the Indian aviation regulator has issued a notice to Air India and Delhi Police has booked a Mumbai businessman.
Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) Thursday asked Air India officials, director in-flight services and all the pilots and cabin crew members on AI-102 flight on Nov 26 to respond within two weeks as to why enforcement action should not be taken against them for dereliction of their regulatory obligations.
Based on their response, the regulator will decide on the further course of action, Arun Kumar, director general, civil aviation, was quoted as saying by The Times of India.
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“On the basis of reply of the airline, prima facie it emerges that provisions related to handling of an unruly passenger on-board have not been complied with,” DGCA stated.
“The conduct of the concerned airline appears to be unprofessional and has led to a systemic failure. Prima facie it lacks appreciation of regulatory obligations… and is devoid of empathy.”
An inebriated male passenger, identified as Shekhar Mishra, allegedly exposed himself and urinated on a passenger on a woman in her seventies, seated in a business class seat, according to media reports.
The woman was too shocked to react, but after the erring passenger left, she informed the crew. However, when the flight landed in Delhi, the unruly passenger was allowed to walk away scot free.
The woman sent a letter to N. Chandrasekaran, chairman Tata Group, giving details of the incident.
But the airline taken over by Tatas in January 2022 filed an FIR with the Delhi airport police station, giving details of the incident only on Jan 4 after publication of reports of the alleged incident in the media.
“The airline should have filed an FIR on the day of the incident or at least after the woman passenger sent a letter to the Tata group chairman. That they waited this long shows disregard for the customer,” the Times said citing an aviation source.
On Thursday, the airline told the DGCA that its crew did not file a case as the aggrieved lady had “rescinded” an initial request for action after the two “appeared” to have “sorted the matter out,” it said citing sources.
It also constituted an internal committee to probe lapses on part of Air India’s crew and address the deficiencies that delayed quick redressal of the situation.
“Had the airline constituted an internal committee even by Dec 1, the investigation would have been complete by now and the passenger, if found guilty, would have been put on the airline no-fly list,” a source was quoted as saying.
Air India also told DGCA that incident that the unnamed business class offender has been banned from flying on Air India for 30 days, pending a report of its Internal Committee.
The Committee has obtained the necessary documentation and held its first hearing, another media report said citing Air India’s reply. The alleged perpetrator has requested for additional documents prior to a second hearing scheduled for Jan 10, it said citing sources.
Detailing the incident, Air India told DGCA that its cabin crew received a complaint from a female passenger on board AI 102 on Nov 26, that a male co-passenger had soiled her clothes and bags by relieving himself near the seat she was in. The crew assisted the female passenger to a different seat in the same class and provided a set of dry clothes and slippers.
The female passenger initially requested that action be taken against the offender upon arrival. However subsequently, she rescinded her request after the two parties appeared to have sorted the matter out between them, Air India told DGCA.
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The 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, the crew elected not to summon law enforcement upon landing, it added.
In addition, Air India is reviewing its standing instructions to crew on the reporting of such incidents to authorities on arrival, including in scenarios where the alleged victim does not wish such a report to be made.
Meanwhile, Delhi police has booked Mumbai-based businessman Shekhar Mishra for the alleged incident.
The FIR has been filed on the basis of the complaint of the woman submitted to the airline. The police were however informed about the incident only on Dec 28 by the airline after which they contacted the victim to get more details. A case could only be registered on Jan 4 after Air India shared the detailed complaint of the woman to the airline on Nov 27.
Disappointed at the airline’s handling of the incident, the woman wrote to Chandrasekaran on Nov 27 describing what she called the “most traumatic flight I have ever experienced.”
“I am writing to express my deep disappointment regarding the appalling incident that occurred during my business class trip on flight AI102 (commencing in NY, JFK yesterday 26th November at 12.30 pm, and arriving this afternoon in New Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport at approximately 1.30 pm).
“This has been the most traumatic flight that I have ever experienced. During the course of the flight, shortly after lunch was served and the lights were switched off, I was getting ready to sleep, and another passenger walked to my seat completely inebriated.
“He unzipped his pants, relieved himself, and continued to expose me to his private parts. The passenger sitting next to me asked him to return to his seat. He did not respond immediately, but after a few moments left the area,” she wrote.