Air India ‘urinating’ incident: Man arrested, sacked from job in US: CEO apologises, pilot and crew grounded
Saturday 7 January 2023 9:24 AM UTC
MUMBAI Jan 7: Air India CEO Campbell Wilson on Saturday acknowledged that the airline could have handled the recent cases of unruly passenger onboard both its flight better, both in the air and on the ground.
‘”Air India is deeply concerned about the in-flight instances where customers have suffered due to the condemnable acts of their co-passengers on our aircraft. We regret and are pained about these experiences,” said the CEO and managing director.
The airline is committed to taking action, he said. “In the instance of the incident onboard AI102 operating between New York and Delhi on 26 November 2022, four cabin crew and one pilot have been issued show cause notices and de-rostered pending investigation,” he said. “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,” he said.
He added that the airline, upon receipt of the complaint on 27 November acknowledged receipt and commenced engaging in correspondence with the affected passenger’s family on 30 November. “The airline commenced a refund of the ticket on 2 December, with receipt of funds acknowledged by the victim’s family on 16 December; initiated the DGCA-prescribed “Internal Committee”, tasked with assessing incidents and which comprises a retired judge, a representative from a passengers’ association, and a representative from another Indian commercial airline, on 10 December. The file was passed to the Committee on 20 December and a 30-day interim travel ban imposed on the same date,” he said.
The airline said it had convened four meetings between senior Airline staff, the victim and her family on 20 December, 21 December, 26 December and 30 December 2022 to discuss actions being taken and the progress thereof, he said. “When the victim’s family requested that Air India lodge a police report during the meeting on 26 December, it did so on 28 December 2022,” he said.
The perpetrator, who urinated on an elderly woman while drunk on an Air India flight in November, was arrested late on Friday night by the Delhi police from Bengaluru and was brought back to the national capital, sources said. He was on the run, and a lookout notice or airport alert was put out to trace him.
Meanwhile, another report said that American financial services company Wells Fargo sacked Shankar Mishra, India Vice-President of its entity in India on January 6, after he urinated in an inebriated state on a woman in her 70s, in business class of an Air India flight from New York to New Delhi.
“This individual has been terminated from Wells Fargo. We are cooperating with law enforcement and ask that any additional inquiries be directed to them,” the company said in a statement released on January 6. The company also said it holds its employees to the highest standards of professional and personal behaviour and that it found these allegations deeply disturbing.
According to the Delhi Police’s FIR against the accused, he also begged her to not lodge a complaint, saying he was a family man and did not wish his wife and child to be affected by the incident.
The victim alleged that despite her unwillingness, she was forced to confront the accused and negotiate with him, further disorienting her, according to the FIR registered on Wednesday based on the victim’s complaint to Air India.
According to the FIR, shortly after lunch was served and the lights were switched off on board AI 102 of November 26, the inebriated male passenger seated in Business Class seat 8A walked to the elderly woman’s seat, unzipped his pants and urinated on her.
He kept standing there until the person sitting next to the woman told him to go back, at which point he “staggered back to his seat”.
“I immediately got up to notify the stewardess of what had happened. My clothes, shoes and bag were soaked in urine. The bag contained my passport, travel documents and currency. The flight staff refused to touch them, sprayed my bag and shoes with disinfectant, and took me to the bathroom and gave me a set of airline pyjamas and socks.
“I asked the staff for a change of seat but was told that no other seats were available. However, another business class passenger who had witnessed my plight and was advocating for me pointed out that there were seats available in first class,” the victim was quoted as saying in the FIR.
After standing for 20 minutes, the victim was offered a small seat used by airline staff where she sat for about two hours. She was then asked to return to her own seat. When she refused, the victim was offered the steward’s seat for the rest of the journey, the FIR stated.
Later, the flight staff informed the victim that the offender wanted to apologise to her. In response, she said that she did not wish to interact with him or see his face and wanted him to be arrested on arrival.
“…However, the crew brought the offender before me against my wishes and we were made to sit opposite each other in the crew seats. I was stunned when he started crying and profusely apologising to me, begging me not to lodge a complaint against him because he is a family man and did not want his wife and child to be affected by this incident.
“In my already distraught state, I was further disoriented by being made to confront and negotiate with the perpetrator of the horrific incident in close quarters,” the FIR stated.
The woman also accused the crew of being “deeply unprofessional” and said they were not proactive in managing a “very sensitive and traumatic situation”.
She added that her son-in-law sent a complaint to Air India on November 27 and the airline had agreed to reimburse the ticket. However, it has only issued a partial refund that, she said, was “hardly sufficient compensation for my traumatic experience”.
Based on the victim’s complaint, a case was registered under sections 294 (obscene act in public place), 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) and 510 (misconduct in public by a drunken person) of the Indian Penal Code as well as under Aircraft Rules.
The airline on Wednesday said it had imposed a 30-day flying ban on the accused passenger and set up an internal panel to probe whether there were lapses on part of the crew in addressing the situation.
Air India CEO Campbell Wilson, in an internal communication to employees, told airline staff to report any improper behaviour on aircraft to authorities at the earliest even if the matter appeared to have been settled.