Air India CEO tells staff to report any unruly behaviour

| | New Delhi
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Air India CEO tells staff to report any unruly behaviour

Friday, 06 January 2023 | PTI | New Delhi

Air India CEO tells staff to report any unruly behaviour

Tata Group-owned Air India CEO Campbell Wilson has told the airline staff to report any improper behaviour on aircraft to authorities at the earliest even if the matter appears to have been settled.

Wilson wrote an internal communication to employees after Air India faced criticism including from the aviation regulator for its handling of an incident involving a man, while apparently inebriated, urinating on a fellow female passenger on a flight from New York in November.

The airline on Thursday acknowledged a second similar incident that occurred last month on a flight from Paris to Delhi.

Stating that the week was "regrettably" dominated by media headlines of the November 26 incident, the chief executive said, "The repulsion felt by the affected passenger is totally understandable and we share her distress."

With questions being raised about the airline not immediately reporting the unruly passenger to law enforcement authorities, he advised staff to report all incidents irrespective of a settlement being reached.

"Whilst the story is more complicated than has been reported, there are clearly some lessons we can and must learn. Most importantly is that, if an incident on our aircraft involves improper behaviour of such magnitude, we must report it to authorities at the earliest opportunity, even if we genuinely believe that the matter has been settled between the parties involved," he wrote on Friday.

This also applies to cases of passengers deemed to meet the threshold of "unruly".

"We must also be clear on the standard of behaviour that is expected on our aircraft and take firm, decisive and timely action against those who do not comply," he added.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Thursday stated that Air India at first glance appeared to have not complied with provisions related to the handling of an unruly passenger onboard.

"The conduct of the concerned airline appears to be unprofessional and has led to a systemic failure," it had said adding notice has been issued to the airline's executives, pilots and cabin crew to explain within two weeks why action should not be taken against them for failing to uphold regulations.

"Though there are numerous cases in which we have done exactly this, I have asked that these, and other relevant aspects of the Safety & Emergency Procedures Manual, be immediately reiterated by operating departments and reinforced in recurrent training, and I ask each of you to reflect on what you would do if faced with such situations," Wilson wrote. "As in any other area, knowledge and preparation underpin confidence and outcome."

The DGCA notices came after the airline told the regulator that its staff had not complained about the Mumbai businessman who allegedly urinated on a female passenger on a New York-Delhi flight AI 102 flight of November 26, 2022 to law enforcement, as the aggrieved lady had "rescinded" an initial request for action after the two "appeared" to have sorted out the issue.

It stated that the offender was banned from flying on Air India for 30 days, pending a report of its Internal Committee.

While the Palam Police Station in Delhi has registered a case, the aggrieved passenger has been refunded the flight fare.

Detailing the incident, Air India had told DGCA that its cabin crew received a complaint from a female passenger on board AI 102 on November 26, 2022, 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.

Sources said the airline in its reply stated that 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.

The airline stated that it has been in regular contact with the aggrieved passenger and her family during the investigation and reporting process.

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.

The airline on Thursday acknowledged a second incident on flight AI 142 from Paris to Delhi on December 6, 2022, saying a passenger "relieved himself on the vacant seat and blanket of a fellow passenger, when the latter was in the lavatory. The crew identified and isolated the offender and reported the incident to authorities."

It also stated that "as the victim and the accused reached an understanding", CISF allowed the accused to leave after he tendered a written apology.

"In deference to the victim's wishes, Air India did not lodge a police report," it had said in a statement.

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