Delhi

‘Gaikwad tried to push me off the aircraft’

AI employee calls for strict punishment

The Air India employee, who was beaten up by Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad 25 times with his slippers, on Friday said his attacker must be punished so that no one took it as their “birthright” to assault a person.

R. Sukumar (62), who is with the State-owned airline’s ground handling subsidiary, also said Mr. Gaikwad’s assault on him was akin to a violent road rage incident.

Mr. Gaikwad had travelled by Air India Pune-Delhi flight (AI 852) on Thursday and hit the employee with his slippers after the plane landed in Delhi. He was travelling on an open ticket and was miffed with the fact that he was not allotted a business-class seat on the all-economy flight.

He also refused to deboard from the aircraft for an hour, following which a team of airline officials tried to reason with him as the plane was to fly on the Delhi-Goa sector next.

Staying put

“When I asked my crew what was causing the delay, they told me all passengers, except one, had disembarked from the plane. They told me he was sitting in the front row and was saying he was an MP and that wanted to meet the senior management,” he recalled.

Mr. Sukumar then went into the aircraft to talk to the MP. “He asked me who I was and that he would only speak to the senior management. He also asked me to call the CMD,” the employee added.

“I told him I couldn’t and that I would complain to his higher-ups, if required to Modiji. As soon as I said that, he took out his slippers and started hitting me,” Mr. Sukumar said.

“He also tried to push me through a door of the aircraft. I ducked and came to another door where the step-ladder was positioned. But he tried to lift me and throw me off the ladder. My colleagues then stopped him,” he added.

The MP also broke Mr. Sukumar’s spectacles and tore his sweater. The MP later boasted that he slapped the AI employee “25 times” and refused to apologise.

Speaking about the politician’s body language, the employee said, “He was very aggressive. It was something like what happens in a road rage.”

‘Not a role model’

“As an elected representative, he should be a role model. However, he is the complete opposite of that,” he said.

Despite being assaulted, the duty manager was completely unfazed and went about preparing AI 137 for its departure to Milan.

Mr. Sukumar said delays caused by unruly passengers often cost an airline dearly.

“You are holding up a flight to ransom. That is not done. Unless and until the aircraft is vacated fully, cleaners get into the aircraft to clean it and catering loading is done, we can’t board passengers.”

“Gaikwad held up the flight for 40-50 minutes. And, when the plane is standing on the tarmac, the charges are very high,” Mr. Sukumar said.

The employee also highlighted that the police must act so that there was a deterrence. “The police should take strict action against such people. They should not take it as their birthright to assault a person,” he said.

He, however, said he was happy that his airline management had extended its support to him.

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Printable version | Jul 16, 2020 9:35:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/gaikwad-tried-to-push-me-off-the-aircraft/article17662271.ece

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