Brand Air India takes a beating following unpardonable incidents

Shankar Mishra

A worldwide debate has commenced after two male passengers reportedly urinated on their female copassengers on two separate Air India international flights in what can be described as most deplorable and shameful incidents. What is most shocking is that the Air India crew which was on the New York-Delhi flight failed to react and allowed the errant passenger, Shankar Mishra to go scot free even after the 70 year old woman victim had lodged a report. The Commander of the aircraft who should have intervened and reported the matter to the ground staff on arrival also failed to do so. Now after the incident came to light through social media, the Airlines, which is run by the Tata group, has taken action against the four crew members and the pilot by grounding them till a complete inquiry is completed. Shankar Mishra’s services as the Vice President of a reputed financial company have also been terminated. In the other incident on the Paris-Delhi flight where a man urinated on the blanket of a woman co-passenger also came to light much later. The pilot in this case had alerted the ground staff but the man was allowed to go after he landed. Shankar Mishra on the other hand has been arrested by the Delhi police and sent to 14 days judicial custody. The larger picture which has emerged from this is that the Air India management failed to react to such a matter which has badly dented the image of the Airline, once considered to be amongst the best in the world. This is not the first time such matters have been reported but the casual approach of the management and staff needs to be condemned. Airline staff throughout the world, particularly women crew members go through harrowing experiences but these airlines unlike India have zero tolerance and as result the perpetrators face action. Air India is bound by the 1963 convention and therefore has limitations while dealing with many situations. Had this Aircraft been going from New Delhi to New York and this incident would have happened, it would have been difficult to get a police complaint lodged because of certain clauses. The FIR was possible because the Indian carrier registered in India with an Indian passenger bound for an Indian destination allowed the authorities to finally take belated action. There is also a debate on whether alcohol should be served beyond the prescribed limit in an international flight. The guidelines stipulated by the Indian authorities have a limit for economy class passengers but nothing for business class and first class travellers. This issue needs to be examined. In the light of the two incidents, a demand has been made that action by the airline in midair should be taken to restraint any passenger who indulges in unbecoming behaviour. The Airlines managements should put forward a view on this. In fact, after the escalation of cases of hijacking in the 1960s when aircrafts would be flown to Cuba or other destinations, the US authorities had placed Marshals in every flight. Whether such a thing needs to be done in the latest context is something which the airlines and the government would have to take a stand on. Indian passengers in particular should never lose sight of the fact that when they are on International flights especially, they are also representing their country in a way. Therefore, their behaviour and actions do not reflect very well on our people and the Nation as a whole. It may not matter to some countries how their citizens conduct themselves but it does to us in India.