‘Not unruly passenger’: IndiGo pilot who flew Kunal Kamra backs him
The pilot who was flying the IndiGo plane when stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra heckled television journalist Arnab Goswami has written to the airline, asserting that the comedian’s conduct through the flight may be considered “unsavoury” but could not be classified to be that of a “Level 1 Unruly passenger”, according to news agency Press Trust of India.
Kamra, the pilot wrote in a letter to the airline, had complied with every instruction by the cabin crew and apologised to them for the episode more than once.
Captain Rohit Mateti also underscored that the airline management acted on the basis of social media posts and not consulted the Pilot-in-Command before taking action against the passenger. “This is somewhat unprecedented in my 9 years of airline flying,” he wrote.
As the text of the pilot’s letter reached social media and was being widely circulated, IndiGo said it had taken “cognisance of the letter of the pilot who was operating the flight on which Kunal Kamra and Arnab Goswami were travelling. “We have received the relevant statements and the internal committee has initiated the investigation regarding this incident,” the airline said in a statement, according to news agency ANI.
IndiGo had suspended Kunal Kamra from flying with the airline for six months for the January 28 episode after the comedian put out a 111-second video.
In this, Kunal Kamra is heard talking to Goswami, in a style that he claimed was mimicking the news anchor’s, constantly referring to the Republic TV founder as a “coward” and attacks his coverage of the 2015 suicide of Hyderabad Central University student Rohith Vemula.
IndiGo’s decision to suspend Kumar from flying with the airline has been sharply criticised. In any case, civil aviation rules only mandate a three-month ban for first level unruly behaviour.
Besides, the rules require that the pilot-in-command should have filed the first complaint and initiated the process to take action. Captain Rohit Mateti’s letter said he did not raise it because in his view, Kunal Kamra didn’t cross the line.
At no point did he not comply with crew instructions. While he did briefly display Level 1 traits for disruptive behaviour (ICAO Doc 9811), he was also immediately compliant of crew instruction, was never issued a red-warning card and hence cannot be classified as such. Furthermore, in line with IndiGo SEP manual guidelines for disruptive behaviour, the situation was diffused, the passenger in question kept under observation and the cabin kept in lockdown for the duration of the flight. Hence, no further action on the part of the cockpit crew was required…. As Captain of 6E5317 Bom-Lko on 28-1-2020, I do not find the aforementioned events reportable in any way.
On Wednesday, Union Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri who, on Twitter, asked other airlines to take action against Kunal Kamra, told HT that he felt compelled to sidestep laid-down procedures because he wanted “zero tolerance for aberrant behaviour”.
“This was not a normal case. It left me with no choice. It could have led to a scuffle on board and endangered security. It doesn’t matter whether it is Arnab or XYZ; a zero tolerance [policy] will apply universally and will be ideology and politics neutral. The message had to go out that such behaviour is unacceptable,” the minister told HT.