The Indian authorities on Friday levied a fine of Rs 3 million ($37.000) on Air India and another fine of Rs 300,000 (about $ 3.700) on the Director Inflight Services, apart from suspending the pilot in command for three months of a New York-Delhi flight for an incident that occurred in the business class cabin last November. The incident only came to light this month when Indian media started reporting on it. Air India fined for how it handled unruly passenger situation.

In the incident on November 26 on Air India Flight AI102, a business class male passenger allegedly eased himself on another elderly woman passenger. After the incident came to light, the Tata Sons Chairman, N Chandrasekaran, said in a media statement that the incident has been a matter of personal anguish to him and his 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,” he said.

He added that “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.”

The fines have been imposed after an inquiry and the alleged culprit was put on a no-fly list. Soon after the incident came to light the Indian civil aviation watchdog, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issued show cause notices to among others the Director of Inflight Services, Air India, the pilot and cabin crew members of the flight as to why “enforcement action” should not be taken against them for “dereliction of their regulatory obligations”. The penalties were decided upon after examining the written replies of AI and the personnel involved.

The DGCA’s action on the airline and its staff comes a day after a panel, which included legal experts, put the offending passenger on a no-fly list for four months.

Harsh penalties

Since last year, the DGCA has been able to impose harsh financial penalties on airports, airlines, and others as the rules in India have been changed. Earlier, the DGCA had to approach the courts in case it had a case for fining an airline – those were the years when the DGCA was limited to imposing administrative and logistic penalties.

The Aircraft Act, of 1934, the statute relating to securing safe aircraft operations and ensuring civil aviation is in line with international standards, was amended by the Aircraft (Amendment) Act, of 2020, giving more teeth to the DGCA.

Incidentally, this is the second time that a fine has been imposed on Air India ever since it was transferred back to Tata Sons, which manages businesses related to salt, hotels, and airlines. In November last year, The US ordered Tata-group-owned Air India to pay a whopping $121.5 million as passenger refunds and $1.4 million as penalties for extreme delays in providing refunds to passengers due to cancellations or changes in flights, mostly during the pandemic. The Tatas agreed to pay the penalty of $ 121.5 million and the penalties even though many of these incidents happened before the Group took over AI in January 2022.

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Former Senior Deputy Editor at Business Line (aka The Hindu Business Line)

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