Sunday, January 22, 2023

Pilot Suspended: The Latest With Air India’s Pee-Gate

The story of the shocking incident on Air India flight AI102 from New York to Mumbai continues to develop. India's aviation watchdog, the DGCA, has fined the carrier ₹3,000,000 ($37,000) for its handling of the incident, imposed a ₹300,000 ($3,700) fine on Air India's head of inflight service, and suspended the pilot-in-command of the flight for three months. However, the punishment on the crew has not gone down well after fresh information was revealed in recent days.

Three weeks after an incident of a passenger urinating on another on AI102 was revealed publicly, more details have emerged, painting a more complicated picture than once believed. The DGCA, meanwhile, has issued sanctions to Air India, its top staffer, and the pilot-in-charge. However, there is some uproar about the decision to suspend the PIC for three months.

In a statement seen in The Hindu, the Indian Pilots Guild said there is "pressure to find a scapegoat" and is considering legal action to challenge the suspension. The IPG argues that,

"It [the incident] has all been reported to the company at that time. If after all of this you still think that the pilot has not acted, then we need to understand what you are talking about and why you find him at fault."

Indeed, it has been reported that the crew promptly informed Air India leadership about the incident hours after landing in Mumbai, contradicting previous claims of inaction. According to emails seen by ANI, reported in The Hindustan Times, the crew emailed the airline's concerned officials, including the Head of the Inflight Service Department (IFSD), Head of HR for IFSD, Customer Care and Complaints teams, and others hours after landing.

To be precise, the email was acknowledged the same afternoon at 15:47, just under three hours after the flight landed in Mumbai. Later that evening, Air India CEO and CMD Campbell Wilson forwarded an email from the son-in-law of the elderly victim on the flight to customer service, pointing to the fact that he was aware of the incident the same day as well.

Given these revelations, questions are being asked about why the pilot is being punished, especially since one of the initial issues was a lack of reporting. However, with the incident being reported within a prompt timeframe, it's unclear what more the pilot may have done. Air India replied to the fines with a statement, telling PTI, as seen in the Indian Express, that,

22/01/23 Pranjal Pande/Simple Flying

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