Air India to fine ‘unruly passengers’ up to Rs 15 lakh after Gaikwad incident
Air India will fine unruly passengers who misbehave with staff and delay flights. The notification comes after Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad and TMC MP Dola Sen were involved in such incidents recently. The notification says police complaints must be filed in all such cases.delhi Updated: Apr 17, 2017 22:29 IST
Passengers delaying flights beyond two hours in an air rage could be fined Rs 15 lakh, says national carrier Air India’s proposed set of standard operating procedures to tackle unruly flyers.
The draft SOPs detail steps for the crew and ground staff in the event of ugly incidents such as two recent controversies involving parliamentarians Ravindra Gaikwad of the Shiv Sena and Trinamool Congress’s Dola Sen.
Gaikwad was banned from flying by six airlines after he assaulted a senior Air India official with his slippers, allegedly angry over the state-run carrier shifting him from business class to economy on a Pune-New Delhi flight this March. But his name was struck off the “no-fly” list 10 days ago after political intervention.
Air India says the Gaikwad incident caused a flight delay of 90 minutes. Similarly, Trinamool’s Sen had an argument with the cabin crew and delayed the flight for 39 minutes.
The proposal lists six steps to tackle similar situations, including informing the airport manager, no direct interaction with media, immediate filing of police complaint, assessment of damage, and fining a misbehaving flier in accordance with the amount of delay.
If a rowdy passenger causes a delay of up to an hour, he will have to pay a penalty of Rs 5 lakh. For delays between one and two hours, the fine is Rs 10 lakh; and Rs 15 lakh for beyond two hours.
An internal communication of the airline says such incidents should be prevented as these affect the crew’s morale.
“The proposal from the commercial department has been forwarded to the legal team. After the legal opinion, we will notify it. In between, we hope the definition of unruly passengers will be out. Otherwise, we will define it,” an Air India official said on Monday.
The fine could be symbolic, though.
“Even a roadside hotel has a board saying ‘right to admission reserved’. Air India, thus, must have a procedure for handling unruly passengers. Further, recent incidents have revealed that unruly behaviour does not require any provocation,” the proposal says.
Hundreds of flyers — mostly drunk, petulant or arrogant — have been grounded, blacklisted, arrested, fined and imprisoned for their aggressive behaviour since aviation became an accessible and favoured mode of transport around the world.
Last December, a Citibank vice-president and his girlfriend were arrested in America for fighting with the flight crew and fellow passengers.
Back home, a police complaint was lodged against Gaikwad, the Sena MP for Osmanabad, who had bragged before television camera that he hit the Air India employee with his slippers 25 times.
Air India retaliated by blocking seven attempts he made to book a ticket, changing the spelling of his surname and using prefixes such as Prof. He was forced to travel by train.
All six airlines cited passenger safety as a reason for banning him from flying.
Gaikwad didn’t face any police action. Instead, Air India lifted the travel ban as the central government intervened. He expressed regret for the incident, but did not apologise.
The Shiv Sena, an ally of the ruling BJP at the Centre and Maharashtra, held him clean and threatened to stop all flights from Mumbai and skip a meeting of the NDA if the ban was not revoked. Also, Sena parliamentarians created a ruckus in Parliament.