AI incident: Victim says crew made her negotiate with perpetrator; DGCA asks to follow guidelines

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New Delhi/Mumbai: The woman who complained about a male co-passenger urinating on her during an Air India flight on November 26 last year had informed the crew that she did not want to see his face and was "stunned" when the offender was brought before her and he "started crying and profusely apologising".

The accused Shankar Mishra, who was working with the US multinational firm Wells Fargo at a senior position in India, has been sacked from the job, the company said on Friday.

A four-member Delhi police team on Friday afternoon landed in Mumbai in search of Mishra, but found his home locked.

Amid this, Air India CEO Campbell Wilson, in an internal communication, told the airline staff to report any improper behaviour on aircraft to authorities at the earliest even if the matter appears to have been settled.

Wilson wrote the communication to employees after aviation safety regulator DGCA slammed the Tata Group airline, saying that its conduct was "unprofessional" and led to the "systematic failure" on the New York-Delhi flight incident, which it did nor report to the DGCA.

The regulator, in an advisory to all airlines, warned them that non-compliance with regulations on handling unruly passengers will be dealt with strictly and invite enforcement action.

According to the FIR on the New York-New Delhi flight incident, shortly after lunch was served and the lights were switched off on board AI 102 of November 26, the inebriated male passenger seated in business class seat 8A walked to the elderly woman's seat, unzipped his pants and urinated on her.

The woman alleged that despite her unwillingness, she was forced to confront the accused and negotiate with him, further disorienting her, according to the FIR registered on Wednesday based on her complaint to Air India.

He kept standing there until the person sitting next to the woman told him to go back, at which point he "staggered back to his seat".

"I immediately got up to notify the stewardess of what had happened...I asked the staff for a change of seat but was told that no other seats were available... Later, the flight staff informed the woman that the offender wanted to apologise to her. In response, she said that she did not wish to interact with him or see his face and wanted him to be arrested on arrival."

The woman also accused the crew of being "deeply unprofessional" and said they were not proactive in managing a "very sensitive and traumatic situation".

She added that her son-in-law sent a complaint to Air India on November 27 and the airline had agreed to reimburse the ticket. However, it has only issued a partial refund that, she said, was "hardly sufficient compensation for my traumatic experience".

Based on the woman's complaint, a case was registered under sections 294 (obscene act in public place), 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) and 510 (misconduct in public by a drunken person) of the Indian Penal Code as well as under Aircraft Rules.

"This individual has been terminated from Well Fargo," the firm said in a statement, adding that allegations were "deeply disturbing,".

The company further said it holds its employees to the highest standards of professional and personal behaviour and "we find these allegations deeply disturbing."

"We are cooperating with law enforcement and ask that any additional inquiry be directed to them," the statement added.

The airline had on Wednesday said it had imposed a 30-day flying ban on the accused passenger and set up an internal panel to probe whether there were lapses on part of the crew in addressing the situation.

Stating that the week was "regrettably" dominated by media headlines of the November 26 incident, the Air India chief executive said, "The repulsion felt by the affected passenger is totally understandable and we share her distress."

With questions being raised about the airline not immediately reporting the unruly passenger to law enforcement authorities, he advised staff to report all incidents irrespective of a settlement being reached.

"We must also be clear on the standard of behaviour that is expected on our aircraft and take firm, decisive and timely action against those who do not comply," he added.

Meanwhile, a police officer said that teams have been sent to Mumbai and Bengaluru. The office of the accused is situated in Bengaluru and it was found in primary investigation that he was working from home. However, investigation is underway.

A lookout circular has been issued against the man to prevent him from fleeing the country, police said, adding that efforts were being taken to nab him.

According to a Mumbai police official, the team reached the Nehru Nagar police station in the suburbs and made an entry into the station diary informing authorities there that they had come in search of Mishra.

The visiting team, without taking along any Mumbai police staff, launched a search for the accused and reached his bungalow B 47 at Kamgar Nagar in Kurla (East) which was found to be locked, he said.

The official said the Mumbai police will help their Delhi counterparts as and when their assistance is sought.

The Delhi police have formed multiple teams to nab the accused, who is a resident of Mumbai, officials said.

In another development, the DGCA also sought a report from the airline on a similar incident which took place on its Paris-New Delhi flight on December 6, when a drunk passenger allegedly urinating on the blanket of a female passenger.

This incident too was not reported to the aviation safety regulator, a senior DGCA official said.

"Air India did not report the incident of a passenger urinating on the blanket of a female passenger. We have sought a report from the airline," the DGCA official told PTI.

DGCA will mull any action against Air India after it receives the report from the airline, the official added.


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