Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu today ordered an enquiry into the IndiGo staff off-loading a passenger at Lucknow airport.
Saurabh Rai, a Bengaluru-based doctor, has claimed that he was deboarded after complaining of mosquitoes onboard an IndiGo flight from Lucknow to Bengaluru.
"I have ordered an enquiry into the incident of off-loading passenger Dr Saurabh Rai by IndiGo at Lucknow Airport," Prabhu said in a tweet.
The doctor was removed from an IndiGo flight on Monday morning at Lucknow airport after he complained about mosquitoes in the plane, and later went into an altercation with the flight crew.
Rejecting the claims by Dr Rai, IndiGo said that he was offloaded because of “unruly behaviour” and using words like “hijack”. The airline said that the doctor became aggressive before his concerns could be addressed.
Dr Rai boarded the flight 6E 541 from Lucknow to Delhi at 6 am on Monday. Soon after boarding the plane, he complained about mosquitoes. He said the staff misbehaved with him and forced him off the plane after manhandling him.
“The Indigo flight from Lucknow to Bengaluru was full of mosquitoes, when I raised objection, I was manhandled by the crew and offloaded from the aircraft, I was even threatened,” said Dr Rai.
The Indigo flight from Lucknow to Bengaluru was full of mosquitoes, when I raised objection, I was manhandled by the crew and offloaded from the aircraft, I was even threatened: Dr.Saurabh Rai,Passenger pic.twitter.com/00XKxuIAUP— ANI (@ANI) April 10, 2018
In a video posted on social media, the doctor said, “They (crew members) called me a terrorist and said that I was a threat to other passengers”.
Refuting the claims by the doctor, the airline issued a statement saying, “Mr. Saurabh Rai was offloaded on from 6E541 for unruly behavior. Mr. Rai had initially expressed concerns regarding mosquitos on board. Before his concerns could be addressed, he became aggressive and used threatening language, including the word ‘hijack’. He also attempted to instigate other passengers to damage the aircraft. Keeping in mind safety protocols, as well as the passenger’s unruly behaviour, the pilot-in-command decided to offload Mr.Rai.”
Hi, Sunil. Mr. Saurabh Rai was offloaded on from 6E541 for unruly behavior. Mr. Rai had initially expressed concerns regarding mosquitos on board. Before his concerns could be addressed, he became aggressive and used threatening language, including the word ‘hijack’. 1/2— IndiGo (@IndiGo6E) April 9, 2018
He also attempted to instigate other passengers to damage the aircraft. Keeping in mind safety protocols, as well as the passenger’s unruly behaviour, the pilot-in-command decided to offload Mr.Rai. 2/3— IndiGo (@IndiGo6E) April 9, 2018
However, as the issue gained pace on Twitter, the airline was seen apologizing to other passengers on the matter of mosquitoes.
“Hi, Sumit! Apologies for the experience. As per NGT regulation, fumigation can be done only when passengers are not on-board. We comply with that and would like to clarify that while we have defined procedures to avoid such instances,” the airline said in one of its tweets.
The incident comes months after a video showed passenger Rajiv Katyal being manhandled by the airline’s security staff after an argument on the tarmac at Delhi airport. The video went viral, prompting the government to launch an investigation into the incident. IndiGo’s president and director Aditya Ghosh apologised for the incident and said an action was taken against the airline staff for manhandling the passenger.
Dr Rai said that he would take "legal recourse" soon against the airline as well as lodge a complaint with the civil aviation ministry, aviation regulator DGCA and Prime Minister's Office.
Rai said that as the cabin was full of mosquitoes, he repeatedly asked the airline staff if something can be done to remove them but the requests were not entertained.
After the aircraft door was shut, he asked whether the crew members can arrange some mosquito repellent but there was no response. After a few minutes, airline personnel rushed towards his seat and caught him by his collar before dragging him to the ramp, Rai claimed.
"After that they deboarded me... then they told me that I can fly only if I tender an apology," he said over telephone, adding that in the process the flight was also delayed.
According to him, the plane took off without him as he refused to tender an apology as demanded by the airline.
Rai said he was forced to buy a new ticket and also to delete all photographs from his phone that were taken inside the aircraft.
"They manhandled me as well... It is a question of my dignity. I am going to write to the civil aviation minister, Prime Minister's Office and DGCA. I will also take legal recourse soon," he said.
Rai claimed that IndiGo staff also said that mosquitoes are all over India, let alone Lucknow, "so will you leave the country?".
In response to IndiGo's claim of unruly behaviour, Rai said if that was the case then why was he allowed to travel in another IndiGo flight and that no police complaint was lodged.
However, IndiGo did not issue a statement to repeated queries seeking comments about the incident.