The airline, however, claimed in a letter to the minister that it was the passenger who had attacked an employee.
New Delhi: After the widely-reported Delhi airport incident in which a passenger was allegedly thrashed by the ground staff of IndiGo Airlines, civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju told IndiGo promoter Rahul Bhatia that “this kind of barbarous” behaviour by airline staffers should “not be allowed”. The airline, however, claimed in a letter to the minister that it was the passenger who had attacked an employee.
Speaking to reporters, Mr Raju also said “security procedures on the airside” (where the violence occurred) “were not followed”. With the ministry monitoring the situation, the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security is issuing a notice to IndiGo. Mr Raju also ordered the DGCA to submit a report on the incident after an inquiry. The incident occurred on October 15 but it hit the headlines only Tuesday after a video clip was aired on some TV channels.
On Wednesday, IndiGo president and wholetime director Aditya Ghosh wrote to the minister “acknowledging” that IndiGo was “at fault” and “apologising for this regrettable incident”. However, at the same time, the IndiGo chief accused the passenger, Rajiv Katyal, of attacking IndiGo employee Juby Thomas while claiming that airline employees had not attacked the passenger. But Mr Ghosh claimed in his letter to the ministry that “whatever may have been the provocation, whether verbal or physical abuse, we could have tried to display more restraint”.
The government is coming under increasing pressure to act after incidents of high-handedness of airline staffers. It may be recalled that airline crew were kept out of the no-fly list rules put out by the government a few weeks ago.
“In a civilised society, there is no place for fisticuffs. It has to be condemned. I want to condemn this incident. I have asked the DGCA to give an independent report. There are certain procedures in the security area where this has happened. These procedures have not been followed. The notice will go (to IndiGo) from BCAS. Any employee found to have misbehaved... with fisticuffs... will have to surrender his pass to the airport operator. What is all this?”, a furious minister said.
Telling reporters that IndiGo promoter Rahul Bhatia had called on him, the minister said: “I told him this kind of barbarous thing (violence on passengers) should not be allowed. He (Mr Bhatia) said he would send the video (of the incident) to me.”
When asked why airline crew had not been included in the no-fly list rules, the minister said the government was “balanced” in its views, but added: “If (you feel) no-fly list rules are not balanced, please let me know”.
In his letter to Mr Raju, Mr Aditya Ghosh said: “At the very outset, let me start off by acknowledging that we were at fault and we not only apologise for this regrettable incident, we have also taken action... Whatever may have been the provocation, whether verbal or physical abuse, we could have tried to display more restraint.”
Mr Ghosh claimed: “The moment the doors of the bus close, Mr Katyal (the passenger) reaches out and grabs Juby Thomas’ face. Even while (Indigo employee) Juby Thomas is being assaulted, Juby Thomas does not retaliate and Sahiv Sharma (the other employee) tries to separate the two individuals... One can see unfortunately that even after Mr Katyal was separated from Juby Thomas, he once again charges towards Juby Thomas and grabbed Juby Thomas’ face and tries to pull Juby Thomas towards himself and in the process both of them lose balance and fall to the ground.”
On the alleged whistleblower employee Montu Kalra, who was subsequently sacked, the airline defended its action, saying: “Montu Kalra was a cargo employee. He had no reason to approach the passenger area. He had no reason to prevent the customer from boarding the bus.”