Amidst the investigation regarding Air India’s urinating incident, N Chandrasekaran, the chairman of Tata Sons, said that the airline fell short of addressing the situation the way it should have been.
In a statement issued on Sunday, Chandrasekaran said, "The incident on Air India flight AI102 on November 26th, 2022, has been a matter of personal anguish to me and my colleagues at Air India. Air India's response should have been much swifter. We fell short of addressing this situation the way it should have been."
"The Tata Group and Air India stand by the safety and well-being of our passengers and crew with full conviction. We will review and repair every process to prevent or address any incidents of such unruly nature," he added.
On November 26 last year, a 34-year-old man, in an inebriated condition, urinated on a 70-year-old female co-passenger and her seat in the business class of a New York-Delhi Tata Group-owned Air India flight. Despite causing major harassment to the woman, and thus committing a crime, no immediate action was allegedly taken against the accused. However, on January 4, the airline reportedly filed a complaint against the accused and also formed a committee to look into the matter.
The man, who is now being recognized as Shankar Mishra, the vice president of Wells Fargo India, the US-based financial services giant, was arrested from Bengaluru on Saturday by the Delhi Police. Mishra had been on the run from authorities after the airline lodged a criminal complaint. The police, on January 5, issued a lookout circular (LoC) against Mishra after he kept evading arrest. On January 6, Wells Fargo sacked Mishra for allegedly urinating on a female passenger abroad on the Air India flight. The company said that it is cooperating with the law enforcement regarding the investigations.
Taking cognizance of the incident, the airline has also reportedly suspended the cabin crew including pilots who were present on the flight on the day of the incident. Campbell Wilson, the Air India’s CEO said, "Four cabin crew and one pilot have been issued show cause notices and de-rostered pending investigation, internal investigations into whether there were lapses by other staff are ongoing on aspects including the service of alcohol on the flight, incident handling, complaint registration on board and grievance handling."
The 70-year-old, in her complaint to the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) said that despite her wanting Mishra's arrest on arrival, no such actions were taken by the airline. Instead, the crew tried to mediate her and the offender and she was made to sit opposite Mishra. Following this, the aviation regulator slammed Air India, for the alleged "unprofessional" conduct of the airline in dealing with the female passenger.
"The conduct of the airline appears to be unprofessional, and has led to systemic failure," the DGCA said, while giving the airline two weeks time to submit its reply based on which further action will be taken. The regulator issued show-cause notices to Air India's accountable manager, director (in-flight services), pilots, and cabin crew members of the flight on "why enforcement action should not be taken against them for dereliction of their regulatory obligations".
Air India has imposed a 30-day flying ban on the accused passenger and set up an internal committee to probe whether there were lapses on part of the crew in handling the situation.
Meanwhile, another episode of an inebriated male passenger peeing on the blanket of a woman has come to light. Air India has not issued any official clarification on the matter so far. The incident happened on Air India's Paris-Delhi flight 142 on December 6 but no action was taken against the accused after he gave a written apology, a news agency reported. The male passenger was reportedly detained for interrogation at the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport after a complaint was lodged with the Air Traffic Control (ATC) by the airline crew. He was, however, released after he apologised to the woman and she refused to file an FIR.