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Air India urination incident: DGCA imposes Rs 30 lakh fine on airline and suspends pilot

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Air India was sanctioned on Friday with a fine of Rs 30 lakh and its pilot license suspended for three months by India’s civil aviation regulator in connection with a passenger who urinated on an elderly female passenger on a New York-Delhi flight. two months ago.

As per an official statement, the DGCA said that the financial penalty of Rs 30 lakh was imposed on Air India and flight director services “for breach of applicable civil aviation requirements (CARs)” while the pilot-in-command saw his license suspended for three months for “failure to discharge his duties” under the Aircraft Rules of 1937 and applicable CARs.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) also imposed a fine of Rs three lakh on Air India’s Director of Inflight Services for “failure to fulfill his obligations”. This is the first time that the DGCA has imposed a penalty on an airline for unruly behavior by passengers onboard a flight.

Aviation industry experts’ opinions on the DGCA’s action were mixed, with one section questioning whether the regulator has the mandate to take such actions as its primary role is to ensure safety, while another felt that the manager responsible got away with it. it wasn’t fair. They felt that more than the penalty, the incident and punishment left a scar on Tata’s reputation and professionalism.

In a statement on Friday, an Air India spokesman said it had received the request from the DGCA. “We respectfully acknowledge the gaps in our reporting and are taking relevant steps to ensure they are addressed. We are also strengthening our crews’ awareness and compliance with policies on handling incidents involving unruly passengers,” he said.

Also read | Urination incident: Air India imposes four-month flight ban on Shankar Mishra

The enforcement actions for breach of applicable regulations arose after study of the written responses to show the infringement notices issued to the Tata-owned airline and its personnel connected to the incident that took place on 26 November last year. The airline reported the incident to the DGCA only on 4 January.

Shankar Mishra, accused of urinating on the woman and currently in judicial custody, has been banned from flying for a period of four months by Air India following an investigation by a three-member internal committee led by a former district judge as mandated by rules.

Commenting on the regulator’s actions, Mark D Martin, CEO of Martin Consulting, said DH the DGCA needs to start behaving like a worthy and mature aviation safety regulator, like the EASA and FAA, and must give up arbitrariness.

He said imposing punitive actions for cabin hygiene and related standards on an Air India flight goes against the whole purpose of the DGCA, which is actually a safety oversight agency and airworthiness directorate. “The DGCA’s job is in the realm of policy and not policing through arbitrary raids on airlines for incidents that in no way compromise flight safety,” he said.

Captain Shakti Lumba, former vice president of operations for IndiGo and former chief executive of Alliance Air, said the DGCA order that placed blame on the pilot-in-command, the flight director and the airline was “nominal” , but the manager in charge “got off free scot”.

While Martin believes this would have no impact on the brand’s reputation, saying “even worse incidents” that required an emergency landing, Lumba considered that “heads must roll” as the incident and punishment “left a scar” on Tata’s “reputation”. and professionalism”.

Harish Bijoor, brand strategy expert and founder of Harish Bijoor Consults Inc, said the fine is a blow to the brand’s board and its many participants and the amount of the fine is an indication of the seriousness of the event.

“It’s a bad rep for Air India for sure. At the same time it’s also a kind of closure. Air India should take a deep breath and move forward with thorough training, retraining and reorientation of its people. Brand Air A India suffered a wound and a deep cut, but even that must heal.”

Alok Anand, chairman and CEO of Acumen Aviation, acknowledged that the penalty was “good” but felt it was “arbitrary” as there was no clarity on the basis on which the penalty was set.

“The worst culprit other than the accused – although the subject is subduing and assuming he would be found guilty – is certainly the airlines and the DGCA has taken good steps to set an example,” he said.

Warning that there will be more incidents of passenger misbehavior as passenger numbers increase, Anand said airlines that fly without well-drafted Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and adequate crew training are “asking for disaster”.

He advised airlines to manage such incidents on board. “The woman flying should have been updated without a doubt, the pilot in command should have come out and reassured her and finally, after landing, the offending passenger should have been handed over to the CISF as this is a case of sexual harassment.” he said.