In a huge embarrassment to IndiGo Airlines, a video showing a middle-aged passenger being manhandled and humiliated by its ground staff at the Delhi Airport on October 15 has gone viral on social media sites and grabbed national headlines.
According to the passenger, identified as Rajeev Katyal, he had taken shade under a plane's wing while waiting for the carrier bus after alighting from the Airbus A-320 on a Delhi-Chennai IndiGo flight.
The staff members objected to this, eventually leading to an altercation. Two or three IndiGo ground staffers then stopped Katyal from boarding the bus which was taking passengers to the terminal. They then manhandled him and dragged him on the tarmac for over a minute, the video shows.
"I was standing in the shade of a plane when a ground staff started shouting at me in a very rude manner. I asked him why don't you arrange the third bus for which we are waiting. Meanwhile, when the bus came two people said let's teach him a lesson and one of them pulled me out of the bus," the passenger, identified as Rajeev Katiyal, told a telvision channel.
IndiGo issues apology, fires the employee
It was after the video went viral three weeks later that IndiGo tweeted an apology statement undersigned by Aditya Ghosh, President and Whole Time Director of IndiGo, saying that “under the code of conduct violation, the incident was investigated by a designated committee and stern action was taken against the staff who was the main culprit by immediately terminating his employment. He was the one found instigating and aggravating the situation”.
Union Civil Aviation Minister Jayant Sinha condemned the assault of the passenger, sought a detailed report of the incident from the airline and said that the ‘culprit’ has been sacked.
"IndiGo passenger incident from Oct 15 is deplorable and unfortunate. Passenger safety and security is our top-most priority. MoCA (Ministry of Civil Aviation) has already asked for a detailed report from Indigo by tomorrow," Sinha tweeted.
Former Air India CMD Ashwani Lohani, who now heads the Railway Board, waded into the row and hit out at IndiGo for the "disgusting" and "inhuman" act.
He added: "The subsequent action of the airline in sacking the whistleblower is the icing on the cake of gross misconduct."
Earlier this year a passenger, Dr David Dao, was dragged out of a United Airlines plane at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport as the airline needed to free up seats for flying crew members, triggering an outrage, with passengers threatening to boycott the airline.
IndiGo fires ‘whistleblower’ too
While the airline, in its apology statement, didn’t specify the employee who was sacked, it was later found that along with the assaulter, the one who shot the video was also fired.
Montu Kalra – who chose to shoot the video which went viral yesterday – was the employee fired.
Aditya Ghosh said that the ex-staffer who is claiming to be the 'whistleblower' is the one who instigated the incident and prevented the customer from boarding the bus.
Here is the full text of IndiGo President Aditya Ghosh's response to the incident:
Just wanted you to know the reality. I personally called and apologised to the customer three weeks ago. Not now. But on the very same night. Not once have we blamed the customer or justified the conduct of the employee. We immediately suspended them and terminated the errant employee.
The ex-employee who is claiming to the whistleblower is the one who was screaming at the customer and shouting Roklay Roklay Isay preventing the customer from boarding the bus. He was four years senior to the other two employees. And instead of acting maturely, he is the one who instigated the incident. He is the one who prevented the customer from departing in the bus. You can hear his voice in the first parts of the video. He was a cargo employee. He had no business being there. And had no business shouting at the customer.
Under the code of conduct violation, this incident was investigated by the designated committee and stern action was taken against the staff. He is the exact opposite of what IndiGo’s customer service aims to be.
Treating our customers with respect is core to what we do. Every day we take tens of thousands of happy customers to where they need to get to. It is for this reason that customers choose IndiGo more number of times than any other airline in the country.
The incident that happened at Delhi airport is entirely the opposite of this and against what we stand for at IndiGo. The video of this incident came to our attention and we took action immediately. We did not wait for the video to be played out in the media.
Even while the investigation was going on we immediately suspended the involved employees.
I personally spoke to the customer and apologised to him the very same day. Whatever may have been the provocation, our staff were completely out of line and didn’t follow laid down procedures.
We acknowledge the unpleasant experience our passenger went through while engaging with our staff. Once again, this does not reflect our culture and what we stand for.
At IndiGo, the dignity of our passengers and staff is of utmost importance. Any act that compromises the dignity of either is of a serious concern to us.
Once again our personal and sincere apologies to the affected passenger.
Not a first for IndiGo
This is not the first time incidents of alleged misbehaviour by IndiGo’s ground staff have come to light.
Earlier this month, ace badminton player and Olympic silver medallist P V Sindhu took to Twitter to slam IndiGo airlines, alleging that she was ill-treated by the airline staff during her flight to Mumbai.
The airline, however, rejected the ‘claims’ made by PV Sindhu. IndiGo defended its employee, stating that Sindhu was carrying an oversized bag which could not not fit in the overhead bin and was told that the luggage would be moved to the cargo hold of the aircraft, which was later handed over to her at her destination.
The airline also said that IndiGo ground staff and other employees remained calm during the episode.
This is not the first case of sports personalities getting into loggerheads with an airline company. In the past, Sachin Tendulkar and Harbhajan Singh had criticised the British Airlines and Jet Airways, respectively, for shabby treatment.
IndiGo faces Twitter wrath for mistreatment
As soon as the video went viral and grabbed the headlines, Twitterati started slamming the IndiGo for the way its behaved. Here are some of the reactions by Twitterati over the incident:
Now you don’t need to travel with American airlines like United to get beaten up. Our very own Indigo is there to serve you.#MakeInIndia— The-Lying-Lama (@KyaUkhaadLega) November 7, 2017
Same here. No more flying with @IndiGo6E I sent a message to my hosts for IFFI that they must not book my flight on Indigo.— Rajesh Kumar Singh🇮🇳 (@Neelnabh) November 8, 2017
Same happened with my parents (also senior citizens) at Bengaluru airport, because of mismanagement and lack of responsibility by Indigo staff. And Indigo is not even agreeing to their mistake even after series of mails and calls. Pathetic service.— Saurabh (@spathak1234) November 8, 2017
I recently missed my flight and all because of your ground staff, your staff is actually very rude. Sorry but no more flying with IndiGo.— Garima thakur (@Garimathakur3) November 8, 2017
After seeing the brutal assault on a passenger, almost throttling him to death, should Indigo not be boycotted - at least for a month?— Dr. S.Y. Quraishi (@DrSYQuraishi) November 7, 2017