New Delhi, January 26, 2023: Air India has closed its internal investigation into the actions by its crew operating and administrative staff supporting AI102 on 26th November 2022.
The crew were approached by the complainant seeking assistance after allegedly being urinated on by a fellow passenger.
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.
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 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.
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). 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.
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.
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. 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.
Air India 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.
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.