Shiv Sena MP ‘grounded’ for assaulting Air India staffer

Mumbai/New Delhi, March 24 The Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA) on Friday banned Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad from flying on Air India and four private airlines for assaulting an Air India employee.

“Air India and FIA member airlines have decided to ban this MP from flying on all our flights with immediate effect,” the group’s Associate Director Ujjwal Dey said in a statement.

“We believe that exemplary action should be taken in such incidents to protect employee morale and public safety,” the statement added.

Besides Air India, the other airlines which won’t allow Gaikwad to fly are IndiGo, Jet Airways, SpiceJet and Go Air.

The FIA demanded “strict action” against the MP.

“We believe that an assault on any one of our employees is an assault on all of us and on ordinary law abiding citizens of our country who work hard to earn a living,” Dey said.

Air India also cancelled Gaikwad’s return ticket to Pune.

The decision was taken a day after Gaikwad thrashed an Air India employee repeatedly with his slipper after he was forced to travel in economy class from Pune to Delhi despite holding a business class ticket.

Video footage of the incident also showed the MP from Osmananabad in Maharashtra trying to push down the employee, R. Sukumar, from the plane despite pleading from other airline officials to behave.

A common practice among international and some private Indian airlines, this is the first time the Indian national carrier has blacklisted a rowdy passenger.

On Thursday, Air India said it was examining the possibility of creating a ‘no fly’ list of unruly passengers on the lines of other airlines.

The airline also lodged FIRs against Gaikwad – for assaulting a shift manager and delaying a scheduled flight to Goa.

Sukumar, the employee who was attacked, said he first requested the MP to deboard in English but was told to speak in Hindi.

When he began to speak in Hindi, Gaikwad flared up and hit him.

All through Thursday and Friday, the Shiv Sena leader refused to apologize, saying the airline staff was rude. He said he had the backing of party chief Uddhav Thackeray.

“I will not apologize. Why should I? It’s not my mistake. They should apologize first, then (we) will see.”

Asked how he would go back to Pune on Friday when a case had been registered against him, the MP said he didn’t care.

“What is the nature of the case? I will go. My lawyer, my party and Uddhav Thackeray Saheb will see to the matter.”

On his part, Gaikwad has shot off complaints to Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju and Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan demanding an inquiry into the incident.

Thackeray has reportedly sought an explanation from Gaikwad for his behaviour.

The FIA also proposed the “no fly list” to include “all unruly passengers” keeping in mind the safety and security of “our colleagues and other customers”.

“Such customers are not welcome on our carriers and we seek the support of the government and security agencies to enforce such a ‘no fly’ list,” Dey said.

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