Friday, February 07, 2020

Vistara and AirAsia India resist government pressure to ban Indian comedian on its flights

New Delhi: Vistara, an Indian airline owned partially by Singapore Airlines, and AirAsia India have stuck to the rulebook and not rushed in to ban an Indian comedian, defying a public advisory to do so on Twitter from Indian Civil Aviation Minister Mr Hardeep Singh Puri.

Four major carriers - IndiGo, Air India, GoAir and SpiceJet - announced a ban on Mr Kunal Kamra last week after he accosted Mr Arnab Goswami, a controversial but popular Indian television news anchor sympathetic to Bharatiya Janata Party, on an IndiGo flight on the afternoon of Jan 28.

Mr Goswami's polemical shows are a primetime platform for launching invectives at critics of the government.
Mr Kamra, a known critic of the government, had posted a video the same afternoon on Twitter, where he is seen accosting Mr Goswami, asking him whether he is a "coward" or a "nationalist" as part of a nearly two-minute monologue.

Mr Goswami, who is the editor-in-chief of Republic TV, did not respond and kept his gaze fixed on his laptop with his earphones plugged in.

That same night, IndiGo tweeted that it had banned Mr Kamra from taking its flights for six months for what it described as "unacceptable behaviour".

The airline had tagged Mr Puri in its tweet. In less than an hour, Mr Puri had retweeted the post, saying: "Offensive behaviour designed to provoke & create disturbance inside an aircraft is absolutely unacceptable & endangers safety of air travellers."
He added: "We are left with no option but to advise other airlines to impose similar restrictions on the person concerned."

Within 24 hours, the three other airlines also announcedthey had banned Mr Kamra too, tagging Mr Puri in their tweets. This prompted criticism of the four airlines for kowtowing to the government and flouting established government procedures that determine who can be banned from flying and for how long.

Vistara and AirAsia India have not yet announced a similar ban on Mr Kamra. A statement issued to The Straits Times by Vistara said the airline will "review and follow due process in such cases". AirAsia India did not respond to a request for comment.
07/02/20 Debarshi Dasgupta/Straits Times
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