A Passenger On Flight To Sydney Assaults An Air India Official

A senior official at Air India was allegedly assaulted by an unruly passenger on a flight last week from Sydney to New Delhi. The airline has reportedly informed India's aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), and the passenger has since apologized for their behavior. While the unruly traveler has not yet been disciplined officially, Air India indicated that it will pursue the passenger to the full extent of the law. Some officials close to the matter believe the situation set a poor example of zero tolerance regarding disruptive and abusive passengers.

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What happened on the flight?

According to various sources, the incident happened on July 9th. Sandeep Verma, Air India's Head of Inflight Services, was traveling from Sydney to Delhi and was hit by a passenger from Delhi. A spokesperson for the carrier confirmed the incident in a statement. “A passenger on board AI301 operating Sydney-Delhi on 9 July 2023 behaved in an unacceptable manner during flight, despite verbal and written warnings, causing distress to other passengers, which included one of our employees.” An official who confirmed that Verma was an Air India employee said that "no action has been taken" towards the passenger who hit Verma, but the DGCA had been made aware of the incident. However, according to the Hindustan Times, the aviation regulator did not confirm whether it was informed of the assault.


Described as a frequent flyer to Australia, Verma booked a business class seat on the flight back to New Delhi, but he could not sit in his assigned seat because some seats were reportedly defunctive. As a result, he was downgraded to a seat in economy class. "Verma accepted the downgrade and was then allotted seat 30C," an official said to the Hindustan Times. "He, however, later moved to row 25 since it was vacant. After shifting, Verma began correcting his co-passenger (who was freely walking around in the galley and also picked up a few alcohol bottles for no reason) and had a loud voice. This is when the passenger slapped Verma and twisted his head and abused him." Five crew members were unable to contain the abusive passenger until a sixth crew member was called in to help get the situation under control. The passenger was reportedly given a verbal and written warning following the incident. Another official indicated that the crew did not use any restraining devices at the request of Verma, although the Hindustan Times reported that said devices are available on Australian flights. Additionally, no complaints were filed with the police.


What are the consequences of such behavior?

The case is one of the many recent ones highlighting frequent problematic passenger behavior on flights. The authorities have so far not given any details about the action taken against the accused passenger, or on behalf of the official subjected to the assault. However, according to Indian law, unruly passengers can face imprisonment up to three years or a fine up to Rs 5 lakh or both for endangering the safety of aircraft or passengers or crew members on board. The DGCA has also issued guidelines for handling such cases, which include creating a no-fly list for offenders. Air India has stated that it will take a firm stand against misbehavior and will pursue this matter to the full extent of the law. The airline has also expressed its support for its employee and condemned the assault. “We stand by our employee who was assaulted by this unruly passenger and we will ensure that justice is served,” Air India said in its statement.

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