IndiGo pilot says Kunal Kamra’s behaviour ‘not unruly’, says airline grounded him over ‘social media posts’ | India News
The pilot-in-command said that Kamra’s behaviour “while unsavoury, was NOT qualifying of a Level 1 Unruly passenger” and IndiGo’s decision to ground him for six months was taken solely on the basis of social media posts “without consulting him”.
In the email, the captain goes on to ask: “Am I to understand that the bar for interpretation of a disruptive passenger is lower/different when it comes to high profile cases?”
IndiGo grounded Kamra for six months after he confronted Goswami onboard 6E-5317 on Tuesday and posted a video of the incident on Twitter.
Following IndiGo’s decision, Air India, SpiceJet and GoAir grounded Kamra “till further notice” after aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri advised them to impose similar restrictions on the comedian.
The no fly list (NFL) rules enacted two years ago clearly say such an action can be taken only if the pilot of the flight submits a complain to the airline, which in turn will take a call on the grounding within 30 days.
During these 30 days, the “disruptive” flyer is barred from flying only with that airline and not other carriers. Aviation authorities on Wednesday said “action taken by the airlines is in complete consonance with (rules) on handling of unruly passengers.”
Meanwhile, IndiGo said in a statement: “We have received the relevant statements and the internal committee has initiated the investigation regarding this incident.”
After the pilot’s mail, Puri tweeted on Thursday: “I had expressed my views with regard to the unruly behaviour of a passenger on board IndiGo flight. I reiterate airlines must ensure ‘zero tolerance’ for any activity which has the potential to jeopardise safety of passengers in an aircraft.”
I had expressed my views with regard to the unruly behavior of a passenger on board @IndiGo6E flight. I reiterate… https://t.co/RrTO4FNX0P
— Hardeep Singh Puri (@HardeepSPuri) 1580393844000
In his mail, the “disheartened” captain says that soon after push back on Tuesday, the cabin crew informed him that Kamra (on seat 13A) and Goswami (on 1B) had a verbal altercation. And that when the crew asked Kamra to return to his seat as safety demonstration was underway, “Kamra apologised to the LCA (lead cabin attendant) and returned to his seat.”
When the aircraft passed 10,000 feet, Kamra was back in the front row aisle “speaking in a raised voice to Goswami.… (LCA) was informed by a passenger that Kamra had briefly used abusive language…. I did not observe any physical contact between the two gentlemen at any point.” At this point, the captain made an inflight announcement asking Kamra to return to his seat and to sort out their disagreements on landing. “Kamra, upon hearing this, immediately apologised again to the LCA, relayed an apology to me via the LCA and subsequently returned to his seat.”
Once normalcy was restored, the pilot asked the LCA to enquire from Goswami if he wanted to lodge a complaint on landing. Goswami “thanked the LCA and acknowledged the offer.”
“After the flight when most passengers had deplaned, Kamra requested permission to enter the flight deck to speak with me to personally apologise again. He did so. I asked him if his issue was political in nature, which he confirmed. I advised him that while we are all entitled to our opinions, there was a time and place to voice them, and that mid-flight was no place for it. He agreed, thanked us and left the aircraft,” the captain says.
Based on this inflight sequence of events, the pilot’s mail points out “while Kamra’s behaviour was unacceptable and verbally abusive, at no point did he not comply with crew instructions…. he was never issued a red warning card and hence cannot be classified as such.”
Full text of the email:
Good evening Captain,
This email is to address the events that occurred on 6E5317, Mumbai-Lucknow on January 28, 2020.
After pushback I was informed by the LCA that 2 gentlemen were involved in a verbal altercation and that it had been noticed prior to commencement of the flight. One was seated on 13A (Mr. Kunal Kamra) and the other on 1B (Mr. Arnab Goswami). I was informed that Mr. Kamra had tried to engage with Mr. Goswami, who did not respond. Mr. Kamra was asked by the LCA to return to his seat as the safety demonstrations were underway and the seat belt signs were on. Upon receiving this instruction, Mr. Kamra apologised to the LCA and returned to his seat.
After passing 10,000 ft, the cabin crew commenced their preparations for service, but the seat belt signs remained on the entire flight. After the start of cabin service, the flight deck was contacted by the LCA to inform us that Mr. Kamra was back in the passenger aisle by Row 1 speaking in a raised voice to Mr. Goswami. She mentioned that she was informed by a passenger that Mr. Kamra had briefly used abusive language. Upon hearing this I turned the surveillance on from the cockpit to observe the events at Row 1. I noticed Mr. Kamra gesticulating to Mr. Goswami who was unresponsive. I did not observe any physical contact between the two gentlemen at any point.
At this time I made a Passenger Address to the cabin asking the gentleman standing in the passenger aisle near Row 1 to return to his seat, and that any disagreements they may have could be sorted out on the ground after the conclusion of the flight. Mr. Kamra upon hearing this immediately apologised again to the LCA, relayed an apology to me via the LCA and subsequently returned to his seat.
A few minutes after this, I turned on the surveillance again to check the status of the forward cabin area. I noticed a number of passengers crowding around the forward area waiting to use the lavatory and – in my opinion – to get a better look at Mr. Goswami. I noticed a passenger try to talk to Mr. Goswami.
Not wanting to exacerbate this developing pattern, I made another Passenger Address reminding passengers that the seatbelt signs were still on and that we were expecting turbulence. I asked them to return to their seats, fasten their seatbelts and request the cabin crew for assistance if they needed to use the lavatories. Upon making the announcement, the passengers vacated the forward galley, returned to their seats and a return to normalcy was observed.
I then asked the LCA to speak with Mr. Goswami and inform him that the Flight Deck send their regards, and that if he wished to lodge a complaint, we would be happy to assist him after landing in Lucknow. He was also offered extra F&B. He thanked the LCA and acknowledged the offer.
After the flight when most passengers had deplaned, Mr. Kamra requested permission to enter the flight deck to speak with me to personally apologise again. He did so. I asked him if his issue was political in nature, which he confirmed. I advised him that while we are all entitled to our opinions, there was a time and place to voice them, and that mid-flight was no place for it. He agreed, thanked us and left the aircraft.
The flight deck crew briefly encountered Mr. Kamra again outside the LKO terminal where we were waiting for Hotel Transport. He apologised again and left.
While Mr. Kamra’s behaviour was unacceptable and verbally abusive, at no point did he not comply with Crew instructions. While he did briefly display Level 1 traits for Disruptive behaviour (ICAO Doc 9811), he was also immediately compliant of crew instruction, was never issued a red warning card and hence cannot be classified as such. Furthermore, in-line with the IndiGo SEP Manual guidelines for Disruptive Behaviour, the situation was diffused, the passenger in question kept under observation and the cabin kept in lockdown for the duration of the flight. Hence, no further action on the part of the Cockpit Crew was required. The LCA advised me she would be filing a report on her end in-line with Cabin Crew guidelines.
As Captain of 6E5317 BOM-LKO on 28.01.2020, I do not find the aforementioned events reportable in any way. Mr. Kamra’s behaviour while unsavoury, was NOT qualifying of a Level 1 Unruly passenger. Indeed we pilots can all attest to incidents similar and/or worse in nature that were not deemed Unruly.
Furthermore, I was disheartened to learn that my Airline has taken action in this case solely on the basis of Social Media posts, with no consultation whatsoever with the Pilot-in-Command. This is somewhat unprecedented in my 9 years of Airline flying. Moving forward, am I to understand that the bar for interpretation of a Disruptive passenger is lower/different when it comes to high profile cases? Perhaps the SEP Manual is to be amended to reflect this? I would like a clarification from the Airline as this leaves a lot of room for ambiguity.
Capt. Rohit Mateti”