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Veteran pilots to Air India: don’t make the captain or crew the scapegoat in the urination incident

The de-rostering of the captain and crew of a New York-Delhi aircraft in which a male passenger urinated on a female co-passenger while intoxicated has drawn harsh criticism from some active and former pilots.

Four members of the cabin crew and one pilot have received show-cause warnings and have been de-rostered pending an inquiry, according to a statement released on Saturday by Campbell Wilson, CEO and Managing Director of Air India.

In his remarks, Wilson hasn’t given any justification for taking action against all five of them.

In fact, he wrote, “Upon receipt of the complaint on November 27, Air India acknowledged receipt and began engaging in correspondence with the affected passenger’s family on November 30,” which further demonstrates that the airline was aware of the incident just a day after it happened on November 26.

He withheld information on who made the complaint, whether it was the captain, flight crew, or someone else.

However, sources within Air India confirmed that when the disputed aircraft AI102 touched down in Delhi, the responsible cabin crew member typed up a thorough report of what transpired, which was countersigned by the captain.

“In accordance with established protocol, the in-charge member of the cabin crew completes a report detailing what occurred in the cabin during the trip after each flight. Captain S. S. Panesar, a former pilot and the airline’s former flight safety and training director, stated that the document was read and countersigned by the captain.

How can they now hold the captain responsible if the cabin crew department and Air India did not read or respond to the report promptly? It is utterly unfair and ludicrous to de-roster the captain and issue a show-cause notice, Captain Panesar continued.

He is convinced that Air India is using the crew and the captain as scapegoats in order to avoid seeming foolish and admitting guilt.

Officers who withheld the report or attempted to mediate a settlement between the accused and the victim, such as the director of inflight services, and other higher-ups in the organisation, should be punished instead, he said.

The pilot community is uniting in support of the crew and the captain because they think that, had any action needed to be taken against them, it would have been done on November 27 or as soon as the incident occurred.

They said that the airline’s decision to remove the crew from the roster was an obvious attempt to minimise its responsibility.

“The crew submitted a written report on the occurrence to the management after landing. If the report wasn’t clear, the management may have asked for more information. Instead, the airline made an effort to appease the angry customers, according to Captain Ajay Ahlawat, a former air force officer.

Captain Ahlawat, currently employed as the Chief of Flight Safety by a non-scheduled operator, stated that the airline has tried to blame the crew rather than taking responsibility for the situation. It swayed from passivity to overreaction like a pendulum. The offending passenger’s behaviour was despicable and deserving of harsh punishment. However, he said, “professional lynching” to blame the pilots for the airline’s inaction.

Captain Amit Singh, the founder of the non-profit organisation Safety Matters Foundation, agreed with Captain Ahlawat when he remarked, “The main cause is the current inadequate safety culture in the airline. While the management is at fault if reports were submitted, the crew may be held accountable if the incident was not reported.

The management has expressed regret but hasn’t yet apologised, he continued. The acknowledgment of fault, which is ultimately what an injured person seeks, is avoided by the expression of sorrow.


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