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Air India Row: DGCA Issues Regulatory, Accused Man Sacked From Job; All You Need To Know

While the DGCA has pulled up the airline for not reporting the latest incident, we look at what has been happening with the Air India row.

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DGCA has sought a report from Tata Group-owned Air India on an incident of a drunk passenger allegedly urinating on the blanket of a female passenger on the airline's Paris-New Delhi flight last month, which it did not report to the regulator, a senior official has said. Air India on Thursday confirmed the incident, which took place on December 6 last year. 

This was the second mid-air incident of a similar nature on an Air India flight in less than 10 days, as on November 26 last year, an inebriated man allegedly urinated on his female co-passenger in her seventies in the business class of the airline's New York-New Delhi flight. 

Following similar incidents and uproar, DGCA has issued a set of regulations. "Non-action/ inappropriate action/ omission by the airlines towards such untoward incidents has tarnished the image of air travel in different segments of society... Any non-compliance towards applicable regulations shall be dealt with strictly and invite enforcement action," the DGCA said.

While the DGCA has pulled up the airline for not reporting the latest incident, we look at what has been happening with the Air India row.

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What happened on the flight last year?

According to the FIR, shortly after lunch was served and the lights were switched off onboard AI 102 on November 26, the inebriated male passenger seated in Business Class seat 8A walked to the elderly woman's seat, unzipped his pants and urinated on her. 

He kept standing there until the person sitting next to the woman told him to go back, at which point he "staggered back to his seat". 

"I immediately got up to notify the stewardess of what had happened. My clothes, shoes and bag were soaked in urine. The bag contained my passport, travel documents and currency. The flight staff refused to touch them, sprayed my bag and shoes with disinfectant, and took me to the bathroom and gave me a set of airline pyjamas and socks. 

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"I asked the staff for a change of seat but was told that no other seats were available. However, another business class passenger who had witnessed my plight and was advocating for me pointed out that there were seats available in first class," the victim was quoted as saying in the FIR.

After standing for 20 minutes, the woman was offered a small seat used by airline staff where she sat for about two hours. She was then asked to return to her own seat. When she refused, she was offered the steward's seat for the rest of the journey, the FIR stated. 

Later, the flight staff informed the woman that the offender wanted to apologise to her. In response, she said that she did not wish to interact with him or see his face and wanted him to be arrested on arrival.

"...However, the crew brought the offender before me against my wishes and we were made to sit opposite each other in the crew seats. I was stunned when he started crying and profusely apologising to me, begging me not to lodge a complaint against him because he is a family man and did not want his wife and child to be affected by this incident. 

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"In my already distraught state, I was further disoriented by being made to confront and negotiate with the perpetrator of the horrific incident in close quarters," the FIR stated.

The woman also accused the crew of being "deeply unprofessional" and said they were not proactive in managing a "very sensitive and traumatic situation".

She added that her son-in-law sent a complaint to Air India on November 27 and the airline had agreed to reimburse the ticket. However, it has only issued a partial refund that, she said, was "hardly sufficient compensation for my traumatic experience". 

DGCA steps in 

Expressing disappointment over the negligence in reporting the recent incident to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the regulator pulled up the full-service carrier, stating its conduct was unprofessional and issued show cause notices to the airline, its director of flight safety and the crew that operated the New York-Delhi flight, asking them to explain within two weeks why action should not be taken against them. 

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As per DGCA sources, an airline is bound to report any incident to the aviation safety regulator immediately. 

"Air India did not report the incident of a passenger urinating on the blanket of a female passenger. We have sought a report from the airline," the DGCA official told PTI. 

DGCA will mull any action against Air India after it receives the report from the airline, the official added.

Police form a team 

A four-member Delhi police team on Friday afternoon landed in Mumbai in search of the man, who had allegedly urinated on his female co-passenger on an Air India (AI) flight on November 26 last year, but found his home here locked, an official said.

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The Delhi police have registered an FIR (first information report) against the man based on the complaint given by the victim to the Tata group-owned airline. The police said the accused, Shankar Mishra, is the vice-president of the India Chapter of an American multinational financial services firm headquartered in California and is currently absconding.

According to a Mumbai police official, the team reached the Nehru Nagar police station in the suburbs  and made an entry into the station diary informing authorities there that they had come in search of Mishra.

The visiting team, without taking along any Mumbai police staff, launched a search for the accused and reached his bungalow “B 47” at Kamgar Nagar in Kurla (East) which was found to be locked, he said.

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The official said the Mumbai police will help their Delhi counterparts as and when their assistance is sought.

Accused was sacked from his office

US financial services company Wells Fargo on Friday said it has sacked Shankar Mishra, who allegedly urinated on a female co-passenger on an Air India flight from New York, saying that the allegations were "deeply disturbing".

"This individual has been terminated from Well Fargo," the firm said in a statement.

The company further said it holds its employees to the highest standards of professional and personal behaviour and "we find these allegations deeply disturbing."

"We are cooperating with law enforcement and ask that any additional inquiry be directed to them," the statement added.

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Air India CEO tells staff to report any unruly behaviour

Air India CEO Campbell Wilson has told the airline staff to report any improper behaviour on aircraft to authorities at the earliest even if the matter appears to have been settled.

Wilson wrote an internal communication to employees after Air India faced criticism including from the aviation regulator for its handling of an incident involving a man, while apparently inebriated, urinating on a fellow female passenger on a flight from New York in November.

The airline on Thursday acknowledged a second similar incident that occurred last month on a flight from Paris to Delhi.

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Stating that the week was "regrettably" dominated by media headlines of the November 26 incident, the chief executive said, "The repulsion felt by the affected passenger is totally understandable and we share her distress."

With questions being raised about the airline not immediately reporting the unruly passenger to law enforcement authorities, he advised staff to report all incidents irrespective of a settlement being reached.

"Whilst the story is more complicated than has been reported, there are clearly some lessons we can and must learn. Most importantly is that, if an incident on our aircraft involves improper behaviour of such magnitude, we must report it to authorities at the earliest opportunity, even if we genuinely believe that the matter has been settled between the parties involved," he wrote on Friday.

(with PTI inputs)

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