Lok Sabha MP JC Diwakar Reddy created a ruckus at the Vishakapatnam airport, after IndiGO airlines refused to board him on a flight to Hyderabad, since he had turned up late. Reddy misbehaved with the airline staffer and went ahead and threw a printer on the floor. Reddy belongs to the Telugu Desam Party. Although he was accommodated on the flight later on, IndiGO announced that it would not entertain Reddy in the future. The national carrier Air India. AirAsia, Vistara and GoAir have joined IndiGO in support, announcing that they will not serve Reddy on their flights either.
This seems like deja vu.
In March earlier this year, Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad unabashedly assaulted Air India’s on-board duty manager with a slipper, while tearing up his sweater and smashing his spectacles as well. Gaikwad was apparently enraged since he was not able to travel business class on an all-economy flight. The assault, recorded on a mobile phone, went viral and gained tremendous media attention. Air India placed Gaikwad on a “no fly” list – a list for barred unruly passengers. Other airlines, including IndiGO, SpiceJet, GoAir, Jet Airways and Vistara teamed in support of Air India and barred a defiant Gaikwad from boarding their flights as well. The national carrier later had to rescind the ban on Gaikwad, following the orders from the government.
In both these cases, the airlines showed spine and didn’t buckle under political pressure. The airlines’ decision speaks volumes, and also underscores their refusal to cower to political authorities or their clout. It announces their no-nonsense attitude towards entertaining VIP culture.
In April, the central government announced its move to eradicate VIP culture indiscriminately practiced by politicians throughout the country. It took the first step by banning the use of the red beacon which was earlier placed on the cars of government officials.
Airline solidarity however, has been seen in other countries as well. In 2016, China’s civil aviation authorities decided to crackdown on passengers who misbehaved or assaulted staff members. Five Chinese airlines (Air China, China Southern, Spring Air, Hainan Airlines and China Eastern) decided to exchange notes and share information of unruly passengers and put them on a consolidated blacklist.
In December 2016, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) – which has 265 airlines as members that represent 84 per cent of global air traffic – conducted a survey by collecting data from airlines. Air India and Jet Airways are a part of IATA. The report stated that between 2007 and 2015 – 49,084 complaints were filed regarding unruly passengers. In 2015, the association reported that there were 10,854 incidents, while in 2014 there were 9,316 such global incidents reported.