Passenger of Air India assaults airline official, gets away with it

The airline’s head of in-flight services department, Sandeep Verma, who was travelling from Sydney to Delhi on AI 301, was hit by a Delhi-based passenger on July 9

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New Delhi: A senior management official of Air India was allegedly assaulted by an unruly passenger onboard a Sydney-New Delhi flight on 9 July. Reports say that scuffle erupted over the basic rules onboard aircraft and the aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) was informed about the incident.

It was reported that the Air India‘s head of the in-flight services department, Sandeep Verma, who was travelling from Sydney to Delhi on AI 301 was hit by a Delhi-based passenger. However, no action was taken against him so far.

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The airline spokesman said that a passenger on board AI301 operating Sydney-Delhi on 9 July 2023 misbehaved with an airline official during flight, despite verbal and written warnings, causing distress to other passengers.

“The passenger was handed over to the security personnel at the airport upon the flight’s safe landing at Delhi. The passenger later apologized in writing. The DGCA was duly informed of the incident. Air India will take a firm stand against misbehaviour. We will pursue this to the full extent of the law,” the spokesperson added.

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The reports said that Sandeep Verma, who had a business class reservation, was downgraded to economy class as some of the business class seats were defective. “Verma accepted the downgrade and was then allotted seat 30C. He, however, later moved to row 25 since it was vacant. After shifting, Verma began correcting his co-passenger, who was freely walking around in the galley and also picked up a few alcohol bottles. The passenger was shouting at the top of his voice. As Verma advised him to keep silence and take his seat, the passenger slapped him and twisted his head and abused him,” the official added.

Amid the scuffle, Sandeep Verma rushed to the rear side of the aircraft and the female cabin crew members tried to stop the unruly passenger. “The male cabin supervisor from the business class had to be called in to control the situation. The passenger was issued a verbal and a written warning after which the situation was brought under control,” a second official in the know of the incident said.

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It was learnt that the crew did not use restraining devices (that are available onboard flights operating on the Australian sector) on the request of Verma and no police complaint was filed. “This incident brings to light the precarious situation of mishandling in the airline with respect to unruly passengers,” a former airline official said.

“If the airline could take strict action against all the previous passengers despite getting written apologies from them, then they should have ensured strict action against this passenger too,” the official added.

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Another airline officer said that the airline should set examples of zero tolerance towards such matters. “However, this case highlights just the opposite. They are sending a poor message to travelers by not taking action against an unruly passenger who assaulted their senior management,” he added.

The incident is just another addition to the huge number of cases of unruly behavior onboard flights. As per the International Air Transport Association (IATA)’s there was one unruly incident for every 568 flights in 2022.

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