The incidents of ‘uncommon behavior’ by passengers in recent months on mid-air flights and breaches of cockpit protocol by airline officials, including pilots, have brought significant concerns to the forefront.
These unsettling occurrences underscore the need for enhanced safety measures and stricter adherence to regulations within the aviation industry.
One such incident took place in June, when a male passenger aboard an Air India flight from Mumbai to Delhi shocked fellow passengers and crew members by reportedly defecating and urinating inside the aircraft.
According to the FIR accessed by IANS, Ram Singh, a passenger seated on seat no. 17F, on Air India’s Flight AIC 866 from Mumbai to Delhi on June 24 defecated, urinated and spat in the aircraft on row-9.
Singh is a resident of Tehri Garhwal in Uttarakhand.
"This misconduct was observed by the cabin crew of the flight and subsequently a verbal warning was issued and the passenger was secluded from the surrounding passengers," the FIR read.
"This situation was promptly communicated to me, Capt. Varun Sansare, the Pilot-In-Command. An immediate message was relayed to the company, requesting security assistance to escort the passenger upon arrival. The incident caused agitation among a number of other passengers on board the aircraft," read the complaint filed by the flight Captain.
"Rajender Kumar Meena, the Head of Air India Security, attended to the situation and personally escorted the passenger. Subsequently, a report detailing the incident was submitted to the local police station near IGI Airport T-3 in New Delhi," the FIR further read.
A senior police official said that based on the complaint filed by the flight captain, the Delhi Police has registered a case under sections 294 and 510 at the IGI police station.
"The accused passenger has been arrested and subsequently presented before a court, where bail was granted. The investigation is currently ongoing to gather further information and evidence in the matter," the official added.
On November 26 last year, despite holding a high-ranking position in a US-based company and enjoying the privileges of travelling in business class, a 34-year-old individual named Shankar Mishra reportedly engaged in a shocking act while under the influence of alcohol on an Air India flight from New York to New Delhi.
Mishra allegedly openly urinated on a septuagenarian woman who was also a passenger on the same flight, disregarding the dignity and respect expected in such a setting.
Air India, acting on the incident, imposed four months flying ban on Mishra on January 20.
"The independent three-member Internal Committee under the Chairmanship of the former District Judge has concluded that Shankar Mishra is covered under the definition of 'unruly passenger' and is banned from flying for a period of 4 months as per the relevant provisions of the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR)," an Air India spokesperson had said in a statement.
Following the incident, Air India has reviewed its alcohol service policy, saying that the cabin crew should be attentive to identifying guests who might be consuming their own alcohol. It also said the cabin crew should behave with the passengers in a polite manner, and not call the guests 'drunk' or persuade them 'one last drink' if they have had enough, as per the new policy.
As a result of the incident, Air India has conducted a thorough review of its alcohol service policy. According to the new policy, the cabin crew has been instructed to be vigilant in identifying passengers who may be consuming their own alcohol.
Additionally, the airline emphasises that cabin crew members should maintain a polite demeanor when interacting with passengers, refraining from labeling them as ‘drunk’ and avoiding any attempts to persuade them into consuming further drinks if they have already reached their limit.
On January 20, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), an aviation regulator, took disciplinary action against Air India following an incident of passenger misbehavior and imposed a fine of Rs 30 lakh on Air India and suspended the license of the pilot-in-command of the flight.
Furthermore, a penalty of Rs 3 lakh was levied on the director of in-flight services of Air India for her alleged failure to fulfill her duties. The DGCA became aware of the incident on January 4, 2023, and subsequently took appropriate measures to address the matter.
On May 8, Supreme Court agreed to examine a plea by Shankar Mishra in the Air India urination case seeking direction to the DGCA and airline companies to frame regulations to address incidents of passenger misconduct on board aircraft.
The plea stressed on explicit zero tolerance policy with respect to “unruly/disruptive behavior”, which could mandate reporting it to the law enforcement, failing which action would be taken against airlines in all cases.
A bench, headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud and comprising Justices P.S. Narasimha and J.B. Pardiwala, issued notice to the Centre, the DGCA and all airlines, including Air India.
The bench sought assistance of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was present in the case, formulating standard operating procedure (SOP) and scheduled the matter for hearing in July.
However, when we talk about the cabin crew and pilot, there have been some instances where passengers were put at risks. In May, the DGCA had suspended the licence of an Air India pilot for three months. The suspension comes after the pilot allowed a woman friend to enter the cockpit mid-air during a Dubai to Delhi flight.
The aviation regulator had also imposed a fine of Rs 30 lakh on Air India for failing to address the safety-sensitive issue in a prompt and effective manner.
Additionally, the co-pilot has been cautioned for not being assertive enough to prevent the unauthorised entry.
The Air India pilot was under investigation for violating safety norms by allowing a friend into the cockpit during a flight from Dubai to Delhi on February 27.
The pilot operating from Dubai to Delhi allegedly entertained a female friend in the cockpit, which violates DGCA safety norms.