A passenger is assaulted and dragged on the tarmac at the Delhi airport by the staff of IndiGo airlines in a video that has been widely shared since it emerged yesterday. “How dare you!” the furious passenger screams as he is manhandled and physically prevented from boarding a coach to the terminal after his plane landed in Delhi on October 15.
Rajeev Katiyal has said that he was waiting for a bus to take him to the terminal after his plane from Chennai landed, when an IndiGo employee “shouted at me in a very rude manner.”
In the video, Mr Katiyal is seen arguing with employees. When he tries to get on the coach, he is roughly pulled back and in the scuffle, he falls to the ground. He tries to get up, but is pinned down by two employees, one of them smiling. “How dare you…how dare you!” he shouts in rage, flailing, kicking and hitting out as he is held down by his neck.
The only employee who was sacked was Montu Kalra, who shot the video; the two employees seen on the video, Juby Thomas and Sahiv Sharma, have been issued warning letters.
The video, compared to United Airlines dragging a passenger off an overbooked flight in April, has caused waves of shock and anger against India’s most successful budget airline, which saw its stocks plunge 4.5 per cent in the biggest drop in a single trading day since September.
“In a civilised society, fisticuffs have to be condemned,” said Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapati Raju today, ordering an inquiry and asking the airline to explain.
Yesterday, IndiGo chief Aditya Ghosh had offered his “personal apologies”, saying “this does not reflect our culture.”
Today, the airline put out a detailed four-page defence in which it said its staff had followed the Standard Operating Procedure and acted in self-defence, but was attacked first by the passenger.
“Whatever may have been the provocation, whether verbal or physical abuse, we could have tried to display more restraint,” said the airline.
Aditya Ghosh also said: “The reality is that my colleagues were only trying to act in the best interest of the safety of Mr Katyal and trying to prevent a potential serious mishap.”
Addressing allegations that the “whistleblower” had been fired instead of those who attacked the passenger, IndiGo said it was Montu Kalra who instigated his colleagues into physically stopping Mr Katiyal from boarding a bus after an argument.
“Montu Kalra is the one you can hear shouting in the video and instructing the other two colleagues who were junior to him to prevent the customer from boarding the bus and holding him back at the ramp area itself…He instigated the incident and further provoked the customer by beginning to shot a video on his mobile phone. He is the exact opposite of what Indigo’s customer service stands for.”
Mr Katiyal “charged towards Juby Thomas, grabbed his face and pulled him”, said the airline.
Former Air India chief Ashwani Lohani, who now heads the Railway Board, hit out at IndiGo for the “disgusting” and “inhuman” act. He said: “The subsequent action of the airline in sacking the whistleblower is the icing on the cake of gross misconduct.”
Here is IndiGo Airlines’ letter to the Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju: