AIR INDIA on Friday afternoon lifted the flight ban on Shiv Sena leader Ravindra Gaikwad following orders from the Ministry of Civil Aviation, which advised the state-owned carrier and other private airlines to revoke the ban “in view of the apology tendered and undertaking of good conduct in future” by the Lok Sabha MP.
Sources said the decision to lift the ban “with immediate effect” follows a meeting between Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha and Air India CMD Ashwani Lohani on Thursday evening to resolve the impasse over the ban.
After Gaikwad’s addressed a letter of “regret” over the incident to Union Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju on Thursday, the ministry hand-delivered a letter to Lohani’s office on Friday afternoon asking for lifting the ban.
This order came merely hours after Air India reportedly stalled an attempt by Gaikwad to book a ticket. However, the MP denied having made any attempt to book a ticket.
An Air India spokesperson said the carrier “remains committed to ensure that its employees are not assaulted and neither misbehaved with by any passenger and would always take strong action to preserve the dignity of its employees at all times”.
Air India had barred Gaikwad from flying after March 23 when the MP admitted to having assaulted an airline employee following an argument over seating. The carrier had filed two FIRs at the IGI Airport police station, one for assault and the other for forcible occupation of the aircraft.
On Thursday, the MP from Osmanabad in Maharashtra wrote a letter to Minister Raju expressing his “regrets” over the “unfortunate incident” on Air India Flight AI-852 from Pune to Delhi.
“While the on-going investigation will bring out the factual sequence of events to fix responsibility, this incident may kindly not be seen as a reason for likely recurrence of such an event in future also,” Gaikwad wrote.
The government move, asking for revocation of the ban, came despite the Air India management on Thursday telling the aviation ministry that Gaikwad must apologise to the airline’s employees.
Gaikwad said in Lok Sabha on Thursday that he had been held guilty without a probe and had been subjected to a media trial. Denying that he had assaulted an airline official, he claimed that a number of officials shouted at him and pushed him while he replied to them. “I apologise to Parliament, not to that officer,” he said.
Meanwhile, MPs of Shiv Sena, which is an ally of the BJP in Maharashtra, created noisy scenes in Lok Sabha and threatened to boycott an NDA meeting on April 10 unless the ban on Gaikwad was lifted.
The Air India employee unions had backed the carrier’s decision to ban the MP, with the AI Cabin Crew Association (AICCA) on Friday morning saying that Gaikwad “will continue to be a risk to flight safety and flight operations, and to cabin crew safety on board, and hence government must think long and hard about letting him back on”.
The association said that the MP’s actions were “criminal acts of violence” and for “either the ministry or the Parliament to allow such a person to get away without even a rap on the knuckles or even forcing an apology to all Air-Indians and indeed all Indians, would be a crying shame”.