Urination case: Air India says DGCA suspension of pilot’s licence excessive
Air India said on Tuesday that it will be assisting the pilot in command of the New York-Delhi flight of November 26, on which the first urination incident took place, in appealing against last week’s decision of Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to suspend his licence for three months for “failing to discharge his duties”.
Meanwhile, six employee unions of Air India on Tuesday sent a joint petition to the DGCA to withdraw the pilot’s suspension, calling it “harsh punishment”.
In a statement, 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 licence suspension of the commander excessive and will be assisting him with an appeal.”
Ex-Wells Fargo Vice President Shankar Mishra, who was on board the New York-Delhi flight, had allegedly urinated on a female co-passenger. Following the incident, the regulator had on January 20 suspended the pilot-in-command’s licence for three months, imposed a Rs 3 lakh fine on the airline’s director of in-flight services, and penalised Air India Rs 30 lakh for violating DGCA rules on handling of unruly passengers.
The airline on Tuesday said that the pilot was kept regularly informed by the cabin crew about the developments pertaining to the incident. “In the judgement of the crew, the alleged perpetrator posed no risk to flight safety at any time,” it added.
Upon receipt of the voyage report, the ground staff did not challenge the crew’s assessment and, therefore, also did not report the matter as an unruly incident, it mentioned.
“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 said.
“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,” it stated.
Air India said that notwithstanding the mitigating circumstances, based on the rules, it did not correctly classify and report the incident. The crew and ground staff have been issued warning letters to henceforth adhere strictly to rules when reporting incidents onboard, so that later investigation can assess the facts, it added.
“The cabin crew and ground staff have been counselled and have since returned to duty,” the airline said. Mishra, the accused in the first peeing incident, is currently in jail and his case is being heard at the Delhi High Court.
Air India’s six employee unions — Indian Commercial Pilots Association, India Pilots Guild, Airline Pilots Association of India, Air India Employees Union, Air Corporations Employees Union and All India Cabin Crew Association — on Tuesday wrote a letter to the DGCA, asking the regulator to revoke the pilot’s suspension.
“We believe that the regulator has acted without perhaps obtaining all the facts on record. The due process of investigation has not been followed and vital steps in the investigation and enforcement have been skipped. Additionally, gaps remain in the data collected, which need to be brought to light,” their letter said.
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