NEW DELHI — India's aviation regulator on Thursday (Jan 5) issued a notice to some Tata Group-owned Air India officials for failing to comply with norms of handling unruly passengers, following a mid-air urination incident on one of its flights last year.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), India's air safety watchdog, said it sought details from the airline on the incident of an unruly male passenger who allegedly relieved himself on a fellow female traveller on its business class flight from New York to New Delhi on Nov 26, 2022.
"It emerges that provisions related to handling of an unruly passenger on board have not been complied with," the DGCA said in a statement.
"The conduct of the concerned airline appears to be unprofessional and has led to a systemic failure."
In 2017, India had issued new norms barring unruly passengers from flying for a minimum of three months to more than two years, depending on the nature of the misdemeanour.
The civil aviation watchdog said it has issued a notice to the airline's accountable manager, director in-flight services, and all the pilots and cabin crew members of that flight, asking them to explain within two weeks why action should not be taken against them for failing to uphold regulations.
"As a first step, Air India has banned the passenger for 30 days, the maximum it is permitted to unilaterally do so, and reported the matter to the DGCA for further action," Air India said in a statement, adding that it has also lodged a police complaint.
Delhi police on Thursday said that the unruly passenger on board the New York-Delhi flight will be arrested soon.
"The accused is a resident of Mumbai, but his possible location is in some other state and the police team has reached there. We will arrest the accused at the earliest," the Delhi police was quoted as saying in The Statesman newspaper.
According to NDTV, the unruly passenger was drunk when he allegedly unzipped and relieved himself on a female passenger in her 70s, who has since written a letter of complaint to Air India's group chairman about "the most traumatic flight" she has ever experienced.
She said although she was offered a set of pyjamas and slippers after informing the crew that her clothes and shoes were soaked in urine, she was told to return to her seat after it was cleaned.
When she refused to return to the soiled seat, which was covered with sheets but still reeked of urine, she was offered the crew seat for the rest of the flight.
"I subsequently learnt from a fellow passenger that several seats were available in first class and he suggested to the crew that I be moved into one of those rather than being forced to sit in a soiled seat.
"Clearly, the crew did not feel that taking care of a distressed passenger was a priority.
"At the end of the flight, the staff told me they would get me a wheelchair to ensure that I clear customs as early as possible. However, the wheelchair deposited me at a waiting area, where I waited for 30 minutes, and nobody came to get me.
"I finally had to clear customs on my own and collected the luggage by myself — all in Air India pyjamas and socks," she wrote.
The drunk passenger reportedly left the airport without facing any action upon landing.
Just ten days later, on Dec 6, a similar episode took place again on an Air India Paris-Delhi flight, when a drunk male passenger peed on a blanket of a female passenger, NDTV reported.
The aircraft pilot reported the incident to the authorities and the passenger was apprehended, although he was allowed to leave after the female passenger declined to file a police case.
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