Emails show Air India’s top executives knew of incident hours after flight | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Emails show Air India’s top executives knew of incident hours after flight

By, New Delhi
Jan 21, 2023 07:52 AM IST

The mail threads seen by HT include those sent to the head of inflight service department (IFSD), base operations in India, Lead HR head of IFSD, head of northern region of IFSD and of complaints (customer care), on November 27 by the cabin crew supervisor.

Air India’s senior management, including its chairman and managing director Campbell Wilson, were aware of the incident on Flight AI-102 on November 26, when a drunk passenger allegedly urinated on a woman passenger, according to e-mails reviewed by Hindustan Times — a fact that runs contrary to claims by the airline’s top brass that they were not immediately informed of the incident.

On January 4, media reports first highlighted the incident, causing outrage among the public at large, and prompting DGCA, which did not know about it till then, to act.
On January 4, media reports first highlighted the incident, causing outrage among the public at large, and prompting DGCA, which did not know about it till then, to act.

The mail threads seen by HT include those sent to the head of inflight service department (IFSD), base operations in India, Lead HR head of IFSD, head of northern region of IFSD and of complaints (customer care), on November 27 by the cabin crew supervisor.

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On Friday, India’s airline regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation imposed a penalty of 30 lakh on Air India, suspended the license of the pilot-in-command of the New York-Delhi flight, and slapped a fine of 3 lakh on the airline’s director of in-flight services for failing to discharge her duties.

Air India did not respond to HT’s request for comment.

One of the earliest messages was sent at 3.46pm — the flight landed at 1pm — and it was also acknowledged by the recipient, Sandeep Verma, head of IFSD, with a quick “Ok, noted.”

Wilson himself also received an e-mail from the woman passenger’s son-in-law on the same evening, and forwarded the mail to the head of customer care, asking that it be attended to. HT has reviewed a copy of these mails too.

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On January 4, media reports first highlighted the incident, causing outrage among the public at large, and prompting DGCA, which did not know about it till then, to act.

At the time, the airline said the delay in reporting the matter to DGCA was because the crew did not report it on time. “We have also constituted an internal committee to probe lapses on part of Air India’s crew and address the deficiencies that delayed quick redressal of the situation...,” Air India said in a statement on January 4.

Separately, an airline official, who asked not to be named, told HT at the time that there were failures at multiple levels. “Failure in invoking the unruly passenger law, in stopping the passenger from urinating on the victim, in looking after basic needs of the victim, in the pilot-in-command not informing the airline ground staff to ask Delhi Police to detain the passenger, and of the airline in not expeditiously heeding to the complaint and filing an FIR instantly. In all, it’s a complete breakdown of the system,” the official said.

DGCA issued a notice, seeking explanation from the airline and the crew.

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Statements of 15 cabin crew members and four Air India pilots who operated this flight, were submitted to the DGCA as part of the reply on Thursday. These replies, seen by HT, show that all required documentation of the episode was done upon landing. The flight report, mentioning the incident was filled and signed by the pilot- in - command, the statements of two passengers seated on 8A and 9C were taken — the woman was on 9A and the alleged perpetrator on8C — and the incident was communicated to the department heads.

The statement by one crew member to DGCA said that the cabin supervisor made calls to Mahipal Antil, the lead HR head of IFSD and Neeta Khungar, base manager, Delhi.

When the supervisor called Antil to understand the way forward, the person was told that it was not an incident of “unruly passenger” and that the Captain was correct in not upgrading the woman passenger to First Class.

On Friday, pilot unions were agitated that DGCA, apart from imposing fine on Air India, has suspended the pilot-in-command for three months stating that he failed to discharge his duties as per rules.

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“The punishment given by the DGCA is the same to the person who committed the alleged crime and to the pilot in command. Now it’s best to simply report every passenger to the airline and police in order to save ourselves from actions on an ‘alleged’ incident,” a senior Air India pilot said on condition of anonymity.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    I am a principal correspondent with the national political bureau of the Hindustan Times. I track the aviation and railways ministry. I also write on travel trends. I cover the beats at the national level for the newspaper. Before being in Delhi, I have worked as a journalist in Mumbai as well. My hobbies include trekking and travelling.

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