A senior Air India executive was assaulted by an unruly passenger on a flight from Sydney to New Delhi on July 9. By Delhi-based passenger. However, no action was taken against him,” an official close to the matter told HT.
An Air India spokesperson told HT that aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has been informed about the matter.
“On 9 July 2023 a passenger of Sydney-Delhi operating board AI301, despite verbal and written warnings, engaged in unacceptable behavior during the flight, which caused distress to other passengers, including one of our employees,” the airline’s spokesperson told HT.
“After the flight landed safely in Delhi, the passenger was handed over to the security agency and the passenger later apologized in writing. The incident was duly reported to the DGCA. Air India will take strict stand against misconduct. We will pursue it to the fullest extent of the law,” the spokesperson added.
The DGCA, however, did not confirm whether Verma was informed of the assault on a flight.
The incident happened when Verma, who is a frequent visitor to Australia, booked a business class seat to fly back to New Delhi. He, however, could not use the business class seats as some of them were dysfunctional.
So he had to be downgraded to economy class.
“Verma took the downgrade and was then allotted seat 30C. Though later he moved to row 25 as it was empty. After shifting, Verma started correcting his fellow passenger (who was roaming freely in the galley and also picked up some alcohol bottles for no reason) and was loud. This is when the passenger slapped Verma and twisted his head and abused him,” the official added.
Officials said Verma rushed to the back of the plane but the five-woman economy class crew could not hold the passenger. “The business class male cabin supervisor had to be called to control the situation. The passenger was issued a verbal and a written warning after which the situation was brought under control,” said a second official aware of the incident.
“The crew did not use the restraint device (which is available on flights operating in the Australian sector) at Verma’s request and no police complaint was lodged,” confirmed the second official.
“This incident highlights the precarious situation of mismanagement of unruly passengers at the airline,” said a former airline official.
“If the airline could take strict action against all previous passengers even after a written apology from them, they should have taken strict action against this passenger as well,” the official added.
A second former official said, “The airline should set an example of zero tolerance for such matters. However, this case shows just the opposite. They are sending a bad message to passengers by not taking action against an unruly passenger who insults their senior management.”
One irregular passenger incident for every 568 flights in 2022
According to the latest analysis by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), there will be one irregular passenger incident for every 568 flights in 2022, up from 2021, when one incident was reported for every 835 flights.
IATA represents about 300 airlines that account for 83 percent of global air traffic. It said the common types of unruly passengers were non-compliant, verbally abusive and intoxicated. The international organization said it expects a 61 percent increase in incidents of physical abuse in 2022 compared to 2021, with one such incident occurring once every 17,200 flights.
Who is the troubled passenger?
A person who fails to respect the rules of conduct at an airport or on board an aircraft or fails to follow the instructions of airport staff or crew members and thereby disrupts good order and discipline.
What is the procedure to deal with such passengers?
> Inform the pilot
The cabin crew notifies the pilot and isolates the unrestrained passenger
> Alerting ground staff
The pilot informed the ground staff and after landing the unruly passenger was handed over to the airline’s security team.
> Filing of FIR
The airline handed over the passenger to the local police and filed an FIR
> Formation of internal committee
The pilot filed a report on the incident after which an internal committee was formed to investigate the case
> How is uncontrolled behavior classified?
Level 1: Disruptive behavior (physical gestures, verbal harassment, disorderly drinking.)
Level 2: Physically abusive behavior (pushing, hitting, grabbing or inappropriate touching or sexual harassment,
Level 3: Life-threatening behavior (damage to aircraft operating systems, homicidal attacks, etc.)
Penalty for disobedience as per DGCA
In addition to taking action under the appropriate law, a recalcitrant passenger may be placed on the no-fly list for a period of time depending on the severity of the offense.
Level 1: Up to three months.
Level 2: Up to six months.
Level 3: For a minimum period of 2 years or more without limitation.