A day after an investigation was launched into Balvinder Kataria's viral video of him smoking inside an airplane, the social media influencer has falsely claimed that the video was shot on a "dummy plane".
The Haryana based body builder has repeatedly courted controversy with his Instagram videos showing him drinking alcohol in public places. Kataria who is receiving flak for his antics in public with Civil Aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia ordering a probe into the incident.
The viral video shows Kataria wearing a yellow t-shirt spread over all three seats of an airplane row and lighting a cigarette while another person, who is not in the frame, records a video. Kataria after lighting the cigarette proceeds to smoke it.
While the video is being shared since January 2022, it went viral on Thursday forcing an official comment from the airlines, aviation authorities and Kataria himself.
On Friday, Kataria was quoted by wire agency ANI, as claiming that the video had been shot in a mock plane and not a real one. "The video in which I was seen smoking is not a normal airplane, it was a dummy plane and that was a part of my shooting in Dubai. Taking lighter inside the plane is not allowed." Kataria further claimed the video was not recent and shot either in 2019 or 2020. "I want to ask everyone: how can a lighter make its way into an airplane? It would be detected by a scanner. A cigarette still one can carry, but not a lighter. It was shot in 2019 or 2020."
BOOM found that the claim by Kataria about it being a dummy plane is false and that the video was shot in a real plane.
We first went through news reports about the incident and read through the statement put out by the airlines - SpiceJet. In a detailed statement, SpiceJet said, the incident happened in January 2022 and was investigated following a complaint at the Udyog Bihar police station in Gurugram, based on the same video being shared then. According to the SpiceJet statement, the video was shot onboard a Dubai-Delhi flight before it took off and while boarding was going on at the Dubai International airport on January 20, 2022.
"The video, the investigation had revealed, was shot on 20th January 2022 while passengers were boarding flight SG 706 scheduled to operate from Dubai to Delhi." SpiceJet also revealed details about the seat where the video was shot and said, "The said passenger and his co-passengers shot the video on the 21st row when the cabin crew were occupied with completing the on-boarding procedure. None of the passengers or crew was aware of the act" and added that based on an investigation per the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR), the "said passenger was put on a no flying list by the airline for 15 days in February 2022."
We further analysed the viral video and found several signs that it was not a dummy plane but a real SpiceJet plane. At several places in the video we noticed a red pamphlet kept in the seat pocket.
A closer look at this showed it had the text - 'Book Cabs On The Fly' in white font written on them. We ran a search for the same line and found ads on SpiceJet's site about the same service which allowed flyers to book a cab in their destination city while mid air.
Below is the ad as seen on the official website of SpiceJet. View it on the page here
The viral video also shows passengers occupying several seats and some standing in the aisle. We also did not notice any other cameraperson in the video to indicate it was a shooting as claimed by Kataria.
We then checked whether the video of Kataria shows him seated in the 21st row as said by SpiceJet in their statement. We looked up various sites which carry seatmaps of airlines and found that based on the location of the emergency exits seen in the viral video, Kataria is indeed sitting in row number 21.
Additionally we went through the Instagram feed of Kataria and found a video of him attending the Dubai kite festival in January wearing similar clothes as seen in the viral video.
We reached out to Dubai International Airport's media representatives to enquire if international passengers are allowed to carry a lighter on board the aircraft. The story will be updated upon receiving a reply.
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