It was only after the woman sent a letter to N Chandrasekaran, chairman, Tata Group, that Air India initiated an investigation, said a source.
“The crew was not proactive in managing a very sensitive and traumatic situation, and I had to advocate for myself throughout, waiting for long periods of time to get a response. I am …distressed that the airline made no attempt to ensure my safety or comfort during this incident,” the woman said in the letter.
The incident occurred on November 26 on board Air India flight AI-102, which departed New York-JFK airport around 1pm, local time. “Shortly after lunch was served and the lights were switched off, …another passenger walked to my seat, completely inebriated. He unzipped his pants, relieved himself and continued to expose me to his private parts,” said the letter.
The offender should not only be penalised but also put on the no-fly list. That he was allowed to walk away after displaying such obnoxious behaviour reflects extremely unfavourably on the crew. Such dereliction of duty only ends up encouraging bad behaviour.
After urinating, the man continued to stand there, exposing himself, and moved only after one of her co-passengers asked him to leave. When he walked away, the woman immediately notified a cabin crew member. “My clothes, shoes and bag were completely soaked in urine. The stewardess followed me to the seat, verified that it smelled of urine, and sprayed disinfectant on my bag and shoes…,” the letter said.
After the woman passenger cleaned herself in the airline lavatory, the crew gave her a set of pyjamas and disposable slippers to change into. She stood by the toilet for about 20 minutes as she did not want to return to her soiled seat. She was given the narrow crew seat, where she sat for an hour and was then told to return to her seat. “Although the staff had put sheets on top, the area was still reeking of urine,” she said.
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Two hours later, she was given another crew seat, where she sat for the remainder of the flight. She learnt later from a fellow passenger that several seats in first class were vacant. “Clearly the crew did not feel that taking care of a distressed passenger was a priority. At the end of the flight, the staff told me they would get me a wheelchair to ensure that I clear customs as early as possible. However, the wheelchair deposited me at a waiting area, where I waited for 30 minutes, and nobody came to get me. I finally had to clear customs on my own and collect the luggage by myself — all in Air India pyjamas and socks,” she said.
A senior airline commander said, “The cabin crew should have followed the company procedures, informed the pilot, isolated this unruly passenger and handed him over to security on landing.”
Air India in a statement said, “Air India has reported the incident to police and regulatory authorities. We have been in regular contact with the aggrieved passenger”.