MUMBAI: Air India on Tuesday said it found the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) decision to suspend the license of its airline commander for a period of three months, in the unruly passenger-drunk-urination case as “excessive”.
The airline said it will assist the said commander in filing an appeal against the order.
An elderly woman passenger on board Air India’s November 26 New York to Delhi flight had alleged that an intoxicated male passenger had urinated on her.
“In the absence of any witnesses, the crew took the complainant’s allegation at face value and assisted her by providing fresh clothes, helping clean her belongings and relocating her to another business class seat of the same type as her original one,” said the airline, which closed its internal investigation into the actions by its crew operating and administrative staff supporting AI102 on November 26.
“When awoken and confronted with the allegation, the alleged perpetrator was calm, co-operative and professed ignorance of the allegation. He had not been served excessive alcohol by crew and did not appear intoxicated to the crew,” the airline said.
“The commander was kept regularly informed by cabin crew. In the judgement of the crew, the alleged perpetrator posed no risk to flight safety at any time,” it said.
“Air India acknowledges that, in immediately taking the complainant’s accusation at face value and providing assistance, it follows that the matter should have been reported as a prima facie case of a passenger “…behaving in a disorderly manner toward… other passengers” and, as such, meeting the description of unruly behaviour at paragraph 4.9(d)(ii) of Civil Aviation Requirements, Section 3, Series M, Part VI (the CAR),” it said adding that the matter should have been classified and reported as such, without prejudice to any subsequent investigation into the facts.
“Upon receipt of the voyage report, ground staff did not challenge the crew’s assessment and, therefore, also did not report the matter as an unruly incident,” it added.
“Based on the absence of witnesses to the alleged act, that the alleged perpetrator was peaceful, co-operative and claiming ignorance of the event, that there was no risk to flight safety and that a resolution had been witnessed between the parties, the crew made a judgement call to record the matter as an (non-reportable) inflight incident rather than a (reportable) case of unruliness. It should also be noted that, in the absence of witnesses to the alleged act, crew were being asked to make a presumption of the accused’s guilt which runs contrary to natural justice and due process,” the airline said.
“Air India acknowledges the decision of the DGCA to impose fines on the Company, a ground staff and to suspend the Commander’s license. As stated above, Air India accepts that, notwithstanding the mitigating circumstances, based on the letter of the CAR it did not correctly classify the incident and therefore did not report it as required,” Air India said.
“The crew and ground staff have been issued warning letters to henceforth adhere strictly to CAR definition of “unruly” when reporting incidents onboard, so that later investigation can assess the facts. The cabin crew and ground staff have been counselled and have since returned to duty,” it said.
Air India said it “wishes to acknowledge the good faith efforts made by crew to handle the situation effectively in real time, when not all facts were available.”
“It also notes that a contemporaneous written statement by a fellow business class passenger includes an explicit commendation of the actions of the cabin crew, and that his criticism of the pilot was in the context of not having been granted an upgrade,” the airline said.
“In light of the mitigating circumstances and the financial detriment already incurred by the crew during their period of de-rostering, Air India deems the license suspension of the commander excessive and will be assisting him with an appeal,” it added.
Watch DGCA fines Air India RS 10 lakh for not reporting unruly flyer behaviour