Centre orders probe into IndiGo passenger offloading after mosquito complaint
The government on Tuesday ordered a probe into the incident of a doctor being allegedly manhandled and offloaded from an IndiGo flight at Lucknow airport after he complained of mosquitoes on-board even as the airline maintained there was no physical altercation.
In yet another incident of scuffle involving IndiGo staff, cardiologist Saurabh Rai has accused the airline of manhandling and deboarding him from the Bengaluru-bound flight on Monday and said he would take “legal recourse” against the no-frills carrier.
Against the backdrop of the civil aviation ministry deciding to probe the incident, IndiGo issued a long statement in the evening which was substantially different from the tweets issued by the airline on Monday.
“I have ordered an enquiry into the incident of off-loading passenger Dr Saurabh Rai by IndiGo at Lucknow Airport,” civil aviation minister Suresh Prabhu said in a tweet.
Sources said IndiGo is believed to have submitted a report about the incident to the ministry.
This is at least the second incident in six months of an untoward incident involving IndiGo staff. Last November, a video had surfaced of the airline staff allegedly manhandling a passenger on the tarmac in the national capital.
Recalling the incident, Rai said that as the cabin was full of mosquitoes, he repeatedly asked the airline staff if something can be done to remove them but the requests were not entertained.
After the aircraft door was shut, he asked whether the crew members can arrange some mosquito repellent but there was no response. After a few minutes, airline personnel rushed towards his seat and caught him by his collar before dragging him to the ramp, Rai claimed.
“After that they deboarded me... then they told me that I can fly only if I tender an apology,” he told PTI over telephone, adding that in the process the flight was also delayed.
According to him, the plane took off without him as he refused to tender an apology as demanded by the airline and was forced to buy a new ticket as well as delete all photographs from his phone that were taken inside the aircraft.
“They manhandled me as well... It is a question of my dignity. I am going to write to the civil aviation minister, Prime Minister’s Office and DGCA. I will also take legal recourse soon,” he said.
Rai claimed that IndiGo staff also said that mosquitoes are all over India, let alone Lucknow, “so will you leave the country?”
Late evening, IndiGo said that at no point of time was there any physical altercation with the passenger.
“In this background of his belligerent behaviour and on the concerns raised by other passengers, a decision was taken to deplane Dr. Rai from the aircraft to ensure the safe conduct of the flight,” the airline said in a long statement with bullet points.
However, IndiGo’s statement was significantly different from its response on Twitter where the airline had also claimed that Rai even attempted to instigate other passengers to damage the aircraft.
In response to IndiGo’s claim of unruly behaviour, Rai said if that was the case then why was he allowed to travel in another IndiGo flight and that no police complaint was lodged.
“Rai had initially expressed concerns regarding mosquitoes on board. Before his concerns could be addressed, he became aggressive and used threatening language including the word ‘hijack’. He also attempted to instigate other passengers to damage the aircraft,” the airline said in a tweet on Monday.
Without mentioning about the word ‘hijack’ in the statement, IndiGo said that in the presence of CISF, the airline’s security staff explained the situation to Rai. In the meantime, “some of the other passengers started complaining about him being on-board since they felt that he had already delayed the aircraft and behaved in an inappropriate manner,” it added.
Citing its thorough investigation into the incident, the airline claimed that Rai was started aggressively demanding that the aircraft be sprayed again, even if it meant deplaning the passengers and delaying the flight.
“On hearing this argument, some other passengers started questioning the delay and insisted that the flight depart without any further delay. However, Dr. Rai continued to insist that the flight not depart which was opposed by some other passengers. This resulted in a loud argument in the forward galley next to the cockpit door,” the statement said.
Further, IndiGo said that as the altercation kept escalating, the captain informed ground security and who in turn sought help as per prescribed protocol from the quick response team of the CISF.
As Rai started complaining about mosquitoes inside the aircraft, the lead cabin attendant tried to pacify Rai and even showed the two used empty cans of the approved aircraft insecticide as well as the mosquito repellant patches, according to the airline.
“Given the mosquito menace in some of the stations in hot weather every year, as the standard operating procedure, we spray the aircraft with an approved aircraft insecticide prior to boarding. In fact, on this aircraft, the aircraft insecticide was sprayed twice. We also put mosquito repellent patches under our aircraft seats,” it added.
Rai also posted a video narrating about the incident on the social media.