Holding that Air India's conduct appeared to be "unprofessional", aviation regulator DGCA on Thursday issued notices to the officials and crew of the New York-Delhi flight, asking why action should not be taken against them for "dereliction" of duty while handling the November 26 'urination' incident.
In a shocking incident, an inebriated man allegedly urinated on his female co-passenger, a senior citizen in her seventies, in the business class of an Air India New York-Delhi flight on November 26 last year.
According to the regulator, prima facie, it emerges that provisions related to handling of unruly passengers were not complied with.
The Tata Group-owned airline on Wednesday had said it has imposed a 30-day travel ban on the man and instituted an internal probe to find if there were lapses in handling the situation by the crew.
The accused Shankar Mishra is the vice-president of the India Chapter of an American multinational financial services company headquartered in California.
The Delhi Police sent multiple teams to nab the man, but he was absconding, officials said on Thursday.
The Delhi Police has registered an FIR against him based on the complaint given by the victim to Air India.
A senior police official said, "Mishra is a resident of Mumbai. We had sent our teams to Mumbai at his known locations but he was absconding. Our teams are trying to trace him."
Under the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) issued by DGCA in 2017, regarding the handling of unruly passengers, an airline has the power to ban an individual from flying for a lifetime.
"DGCA has issued Show Cause notices to Accountable Manager of M/s Air India, (its) Director in-flight Services, all the pilots and cabin crew members of that flight as to why enforcement action should not be taken against them for dereliction of their regulatory obligations," the aviation safety regulator said in a statement.
"However, to meet the ends of justice, they have been given two weeks time to submit their reply to DGCA and based on that further action will be taken," it added.
Meanwhile, another incident has emerged of a passenger allegedly urinating on the blanket of a passenger on the airline's Paris-Delhi flight.
This incident happened on December 6 on Air India flight 142 and the pilot of the aircraft reported the matter to the Air Traffic Control (ATC) at the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport about it, following which the male passenger was apprehended.
It is not known which class the passengers were travelling in.
The DGCA, in its statement on New York-New Delhi flight, said the incident of passenger misbehavior on November 26, 2022 came to its notice January 4, 2023.
Significantly, the airline in its statement on Wednesday had not shared any information as to when the incident was reported to the DGCA or when the FIR was lodged or the date of flying ban on the passenger.
As per DGCA sources, an airline is bound to report any incident to the aviation regulator immediately but the same was not apparently followed with respect to the November 26 incident.
For fact finding, the DGCA said it sought the details of the incident from Air India and "on the basis of reply of the airline, prima facie it emerges that provisions related to handling of an unruly passenger on-board have not been complied with."
"The conduct of the concerned airline appears to be unprofessional and has led to a systemic failure," it said.
Prima facie, according to the DGCA, "it lacks appreciation of regulatory obligations as described in applicable Aircraft Rules 1937, CAR on ‘handling of unruly passengers', cabin safety circular, Air India operations manual, Air India safety and emergency procedure manual and Air India quick reference handbook and is devoid of empathy."
According to reports, the complainant had also written to Air India chairman N Chandrasekaran stating that the drunk co-passenger had urinated on her and exposed himself.
Meanwhile, sources on Thursday said that the airline in response its notice on January 4 told DGCA that its staff had not complained to law enforcement about the Mumbai businessman as the aggrieved lady had "rescinded" an initial request for action after the two "appeared" to have sorted out the issue.
Sources with direct knowledge of the matter said Air India on Thursday sent a reply to DGCA's January 4 notice, detailing the incident that happened on board AI 102 flight of November 26, 2022.
The airline stated that the unnamed business class offender has been banned from flying on Air India for 30 days, pending a report of its Internal Committee.
The Committee has obtained the necessary documentation and held its first hearing, sources said, quoting from Air India's reply.
The alleged perpetrator has requested for additional documents prior to a second hearing scheduled for January 10, they said.