Air India Peeing Case: What Can Get A Passenger On No-Fly List?
Air India’s late response to the incident have raised many questions about the role and steps an airline should take when a passenger misbehaves.
Days after a passenger allegedly urinated on a woman co-passenger on an Air India flight, a Look Out Circular (LOC) has been issued against the accused to prevent him from leaving the country.
On January 4, Delhi police, 39 days after the incident, registered an FIR against Shankar Mishra, a Mumbai-based vice-president of American multinational financial services company -- Wells Fargo. Mishra allegedly in a drunken state, urinated on a woman co-passenger on a flight from New York to Delhi on November 26.
The FIR was registered only after the media picked the story.
Over the last few weeks, a number of incidents showing misbehaviour by Indian passengers on airlines have come to light. On an IndiGo flight, a passenger called a flight attendant a 'servant'. A small clip of the flight attendant's response, screaming at the passenger, had gone viral. In another incident, on Malaysian Airline, a fight broke out between two passengers after a passenger reclined his seat and refused to follow the cabin crew's instructions.
The latest incident and Air India's late response to it have raised many questions about the role and steps an airline should take when a passenger misbehaves.
What Should Air India Have Done?
Speaking to BOOM, Ajay Awtaney, founder and editor of LiveFromALounge (a digital platform news focusing on aviation) and an expert in business travel aviation said the captain of the flight or the cabin crew in charge should have filed a report with the airlines about the incident. "They could have done a lot of things like notify or reported to security ahead, so the cops would have to take action against the passenger when the flight landed. The person could have been taken into custody," he said.
He said that a lot of protocols were ignored by the cabin crew that had made the passenger sit on the same seat even though she had asked her seat to be changed and there were seats available on the flight.
In a statement, the woman wrote, "Another business class passenger who had witnessed my plight and was advocating for me pointed out that there were seats available in the first class. The flight crew told me that the pilot had vetoed giving me a seat in first class. After I had been standing for 20 minutes, one of the senior flight staff offered me the small crew seat used by airline staff, "
Awtaney explained that different countries have different rules in such situations. For instance, if this would have happened in an American carrier or British carrier, they would have immediately taken action and acted on it. "But it seems Air India had taken it lightly," he said.
The first line of defense is the cabin crew, who are required to attempt to defuse a situation via many modes like communicating with the passenger, and written notice if required, he explained.
In Air India's case, they could have chosen one more option – to divert the flight and offload the passenger.
"The FIR was initiated almost 40 days after the incident. The airline should have initiated an internal investigation and put him on the 'no-fly list' but Air India did pursue it late," Awtaney said.
On November 26: On an Air India flight from New York to Delhi a passenger called Shekar Mishra urinated on a woman co-passenger.
November 27: A written complaint submitted by the woman to Air India
December 28: Delhi police told the media that they were informed about the incident in brief on this day, a month after the incident.
On January 4: Delhi police registered an FIR against Mishra and booked him under IPC section 354 (Outraging the modesty of women), 510 (misconduct by a drunken person) and the Aircraft Act, 294 (obscene act in a public place), 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman).
"Air India did not respond to the complaint or put the accused on a no-fly list until it was picked up by the press," the editor of (LFAL) said adding that "it seems like they did not want to deal with the issue altogether".
Reacting to the incident after 40 days sounds like somebody on the flight did not do the right thing by not reporting it even after the passenger shared what she had faced, he added.
How Does An Airline Decide Who To Put On No Fly List?
In 2017, India's aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) laid down rules for putting passengers on a no-fly list. The rules, notified on 8 September 2017, under the Civil Aviation Requirements, section 3, Air Transport Series M Part VI focus on the handling of 'unruly passengers'.
It was under these rules that IndiGo, SpiceJet, Air India and Go Air banned comedian Kunal Kamra from flying and put him on 'no-fly' after he confronted television anchor Arnab Goswami on a flight.
Under the guidelines, an unruly passenger is defined as: "A passenger who fails to respect the rules of conduct at an airport or on board an aircraft or to follow the instructions of the airport staff or crew members and thereby disturbs the good order and discipline at an airport or on board the aircraft."
There are three categories, as defined by DGCA, that are considered to be offense – unruly behaviour (physical gestures, verbal harassment, unruly inebriation etc.) The second rule is physically abusive behaviour (pushing, kicking, hitting, grabbing or inappropriate touching or sexual harassment etc.) and the final is life-threatening behaviour (damage to aircraft operating systems, physical violence such as choking, eye-gouging, murderous assault attempted or actual breach of the flight crew compartment etc.)
What Is The Process For It?
If the pilot-in-command reports any passenger for misbehaving during the flight, the internal committee of the airline decides whether to put them on the no fly list.
According to the rules defined under DGCA – the internal committee needs to have the following set of people: Retired District & Session Judge as Chairman, a representative from a different scheduled airline as member, a representative from a passengers association or consumer association or retired officer of consumer dispute redressal forum as member.
Awtaney said during the initial 30 days of no-fly, the committee will decide the gravity of the charges against the passengers and then decide whether to place a longer ban.
The first level of offence (unruly behaviour) can put a passenger to three months on the no-fly list, the second level (physically abusive behaviour) can be for six months and the third level (life-threatening behaviour) for at least two years or more.
Mishra has been put on no-fly for 30 days.
Once the passenger is on the no-fly list of the airline, other airlines have the option to ban that passenger from their flights, like in the case of Kunal Kamra who was banned for six months.
Awtaney explained that the recourse for the passenger is to appeal the ban with an appellate committee constituted by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, and further appeal in the high court.
What happened on November 26 on an Air India flight?
On November 26, Mishra was travelling in Air India's flight AI102, in a business class cabin allegedly unzipped and urinated on a co-passenger in her 70s when he was drunk. The lights had been dimmed after a meal.
After urinating, the man allegedly kept exposing himself and didn't move until another passenger asked him to return to his seat. The woman had complained about it to the crew and told them her clothes, shoes and bag were soaked in urine. The crew gave her a set of pyjamas and slippers and told her to return to her seat, claiming no other seat was available.
On arrival in Delhi, the passenger was let go by the airline left without any action for his egregious behavior.
Disappointed at the airline's handling of the incident, the woman wrote to the chairman of Air India N Chandrasekaran the following day, describing to him what she called the "most traumatic flight I have ever experienced".
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