DGCA asks Air India to explain laxity in responding to woman’s complaint

‘Unprofessional conduct’ from the airline, says the regulatory body; Delhi Police identify Mumbai-based accused who urinated on co-passenger; on another international flight of the airline, man urinated on blanket of woman passenger

Updated - January 06, 2023 09:32 am IST

Published - January 05, 2023 11:13 pm IST - NEW DELHI

The aviation safety regulator has issued show-cause notices to accountable manager of Air India, Director in-flight services of Air India, all the pilots and cabin crew members. File

The aviation safety regulator has issued show-cause notices to accountable manager of Air India, Director in-flight services of Air India, all the pilots and cabin crew members. File | Photo Credit: Reuters

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.

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. 

While Air India in its statement on Wednesday said that it had conducted an internal enquiry and decided to ban the passenger from flying with it for 30 days as per the DGCA’s norms for dealing with unruly passengers, and subsequently reported the matter to the regulator for further action, the DGCA clearly said that no such report was shared with them until Wednesday.

It also emerged that 10 days after the incident, a similar event occurred on another Air India flight from Paris to Delhi when a drunk male passenger urinated on a blanket of a female passenger. The incident on Air India flight 142 was reported to the Air Traffic Control and the CISF and Indira Gandhi International Airport following which the passenger was apprehended. But he was let go after the two passengers arrived at a mutual understanding and the accused tendered a written apology. “In deference to the victim’s wishes, Air India did not lodge a police report,” the airline said.

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