New Delhi: The Air India on Saturday grounded all four cabin crew members, including the two pilots, of the controversial New York-Delhi flight in which a man had allegedly urinated on an elderly woman in a drunken state.
“Internal investigations into whether there were lapses by other staff are ongoing on aspects including the service of alcohol on flight, incident handling, complaint registration on board, and grievance handling,” read the statement by Campbell Wilson, chief executive officer and managing director (CEO & MD), Air India.
The airline said it “regrets and is pained about” these experiences, and added that it acknowledges that it could have handled the situation better, “both in the air and on the ground”. The 71-year-old lady co-passenger had expressed shock and displeasure at the airline’s handling of the incident.
The Air India statement further said that the company would also review the policy to serve liquor during the flights to check such incidents in future. “We have already started a comprehensive education program to strengthen crews’ awareness of and compliance with policies on the handling of incidents and unruly passengers, and to better equip crew to empathetically assist those affected,” said an airline officer.
Culprit arrested from Bangalore
The man, Shankar Mishra, who had peed on an elderly woman on board New York-Delhi flight on November 26, was arrested late on Friday night by the Delhi police from Bengaluru. He was brought back to the national capital. He was on the run, and a lookout notice or airport alert was put out to trace him.
Mishra had allegedly unzipped his pants and urinated on an elderly woman in the business class. He later begged the woman not to report him to the police, saying it would impact his wife and child.
It is also said that the US-based company, where Mishra was the vice president, had sacked Mishra from the service after the incident was brought to its notice on Friday.
The incident and after
Soon after receiving the complaint, the Air India acknowledged receipt and started speaking with the affected passenger’s family on November 30. It also initiated the refund of the ticket on December 2, with receipt of funds acknowledged by the victim’s family on December 16.
“The airline also claimed to have initiated the director general of civil aviation (DGCA)-prescribed internal committee to inquire into the matter. The committee, comprising a retired judge, a representative from a passengers’ association, and a representative from another Indian commercial airline was set up on 10 December. The committee had recommended a 30-day interim travel ban on Mishra,” the airline said.
Further, the airline convened four meetings between senior airline staff, the victim, and her family on December 20, 21, 26, and 30, 2022 to discuss actions being taken and the progress thereof, it said. “Air India lodged a police complaint after the victim’s family insisted for it during the meeting on December 26. The case was lodged on December 28, 2022,” it said, adding that both pilots had earlier today reached Delhi’s IGI airport police station for questioning.
Air India filed a police complaint only this week and said 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 banned Mishra from flying for 30 days, triggering outrage by social media users who said it was not enough.