The Federation of Indian Pilots on Wednesday wrote to Union civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia against the indiscriminate exercise of powers by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation in cancelling the licence of pilots. The DGCA recently cancelled the licence of the pilot of the Air India New York-New Delhi flight where Shankar Mishra urinated on an elderly woman in a drunken state. DGCA’s reaction is knee-jerk, triggered by sensational media reports, the pilot’s body said asking why DGCA had not conducted its own independent inquiry into the incident.
“The basic principle of assuming the pilot’s innocence until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt appears to have been ignored by the DGCA,” the pilots’ body wrote.
It said while the pilot was punished, the accountable manager of the same organisation has been spared.
“Pilots may, henceforth, not hesitate to exercise their statutory authority to restrain and deplane passengers of file FIRs at even the slightest pretext for fear of being reprimanded by the DGCA and of being accused of not performing their duties in accordance with unruly passenger related regulations,” the letter said.
“This is definitely not the type of work environment warranted in a customer centric and service oriented industry,” it added.
Apart from a fine of ₹30 lakh, the DGCA suspended the pilot’s licence and imposed a separate fine of ₹3 lakh on Air India’s director of in-flight services in connection with the Shankar Mishra case. A separate fine has been imposed on Air India for the second urination incident on a Paris-New Delhi flight. Amid these back-to-back incidents, Air India changed its in-flight liquor service.
However, the cancellation of the pilot’s licence was flagged as an excess by several unions and Air India itself. Air India has assured help to the pilot in his appeal against the licence cancellation. A joint forum of six unions on Tuesday appealed to DGCA to revoke the suspension of the licence.
‘Shankar Mishra was not served excessive alcohol; was calm and co-operative’
In its closing report, Air India said Shankar Mishra, the accused in the case, was not served excessive alcohol and did not appear to be intoxicated by the crew. The crew did not consider him a flight risk either. When he was countered with the allegation of urination, he appeared calm, cooperative and said he was not aware. There was no witness of the act and so the crew took the complaint at face value and the matter was not recorded as a case of unruliness.
“Air India wishes to acknowledge the good faith efforts made by the crew to handle the situation effectively in real-time when not all facts were available. It also notes that a contemporaneous written statement by a fellow business class passenger includes an explicit commendation of the actions of the cabin crew and that his criticism of the pilot was in the context of not having been granted an upgrade,” Air India statement said noting the role of a co-passenger in the entire episode.