India’s aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) today warned all airlines that a repeat of the unruly scenes witnessed on an IndiGo aircraft that flew actor Kangana Ranaut from Chandigarh to Mumbai will lead to the carrier being suspended from operating the route — on which such a violation takes place — for two weeks.
The DGCA slammed IndiGo for failing to prevent the frenzied behaviour on the aircraft once it landed in Mumbai. It rebuked the airline management for letting so many “big cameras” on the flight, not anticipating the fallout that was eventually witnessed.
Citing aircraft rules, the DGCA issued an order today saying: “No person shall take, or cause or permit to be taken, at a government aerodrome or from an aircraft in flight, any photograph except in accordance with and subject to the terms and conditions of permission in writing granted by (certain designated aviation officials)… This permission is, however, not applicable when such aircraft is landing, taking off or on (the) ground at a defence aerodrome.
“In spite of these regulations, it has been noted that at times, the airlines have failed to follow these stipulations primarily because of lack of diligence on their part. Needless to say that such deviations result in (a) compromise in maintaining the highest standards of safety and therefore, is not to be allowed.”
“Keeping this in mind, it has been decided that from now on, in case any such violation occurs on any scheduled passenger aircraft – the schedule of flight for that particular route shall be suspended for a period of two weeks from the next day, that is the day following and shall be restored only after the airline has taken all the necessary punitive action against those responsible for the violation,” it adds.
The DGCA was of the view that IndiGo ground staff at Chandigarh should not have allowed so many “big cameras” on board the flight to Mumbai on 9 September when Kangana Ranaut boarded the flight. If the airline ground staff felt they could not stop passengers, they should have taken help from security personnel, it noted.
The situation became unmanageable when Kangana landed in Mumbai that day. The video journalists on the flight as well as other reporters thronged to interview the actress, tossing all COVID-related precautions like social distancing in the air.
In a hard-hitting letter to IndiGo president and COO Wolfgang Prock-Schauer after examining the airline’s report, the DGCA said: “… a number of violations have happened on the day and IndiGo has not only failed to prevent the incident but also failed to take suitable and effective remedial measures. The violations are as under: A number of persons from media carried their camera and did recording, while boarding the flight at Chandigarh. They also did recording & live streaming inside the passenger cabin without any express permission from the DGCA for the same. However, the crew failed to inform the CISF about these activities and stop them. Such laxity on the part of the Crew results in violation of rules.”
“While boarding, during flight and even after landing, the passengers were flouting instructions given by the crew and thus seems indulging in unruly behaviour (which) is again a violation of provisions of (rules)… the airline has failed to initiate any action in this respect.”
“The airline staff (including ground staff) and passengers are seen not following the guidelines prescribed under standards operating procedure in respect of Covid-19 protocol. This amounts to (a) violation of Covid-19 protocol prescribed by the aviation ministry for undertaking journey by air. In view of above, IndiGo is directed to initiate suitable action against all those, who are responsible for above-mentioned violations of the regulatory provisions & guidelines and submit an action taken report within 15 days, failing which suitable action will be initiated against the airline,” the message added, referring to the situation caused by the media frenzy surrounding Kangana Ranaut and the callousness of the airline witnessed in allowing the crowd.
On its part, IndiGo had yesterday said in a statement about flight 6E 264 that its “cabin crew, as well as the captain, followed all the requisite protocols, including announcements to restrict photography, follow social distancing and maintain overall safety. IndiGo also followed the requisite protocol of documenting this matter in its post-flight report. We are committed to providing a safe, hassle-free experience to our passengers.”