NEW DELHI: IndiGo has barred nine electronic media personnel from flying for a fortnight after its internal probe panel found they had behaved in an unruly manner on a Chandigarh-Mumbai flight (6E-264) of September 9 that had, among others, actress Kangana Ranaut on board. Confirming this, an IndiGo official said the “ban period for the nine journalists is from October 15 to 30”.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had directed IndiGo on September 11 to “initiate suitable action against all those, who are responsible for violations of the regulatory provisions and guidelines and submit an action taken report failing which suitable action will be initiated against the airline.” Following this regulatory directive, the airline had set up a probe panel as per the no fly list rules.
“Earlier this week, IndiGo has informed us that its probe panel has found the media personnel on that flight did behave in an unruly manner that violated both flight safety and the Covid protocol. The airline has grounded those media personnel for two weeks. It has sent its probe panel findings and action taken to the DGCA and other airlines,” said sources.
Now it is upto other airlines to follow IndiGo action on those found guilty of unruly behaviour for the same time period. Till now Indian carriers have collectively barred passengers like in cases of MPs barred from flying after misbehaving with airline personnel.
Most recently, on January 28, 2020, IndiGo had decided to ground standup comedian Kunal Kamra for six months hours (later halved to 3 months) after he had confronted TV anchor Arnab Goswami on a flight. Other airlines had also barred Kamra, with AirAsia India and Vistara doing so for 1.5 months.
The 15-day suspension is the lowest no fly period given by an airline in India so far.
On September 9, Ranaut was making a pre-announced return to Mumbai. Inflight videos of 6E-264 showed soon after the aircraft touched down in Mumbai, electronic media personnel left their seats and rushed to the front row where Ranaut was seated to try and and show her visuals. Crew members repeatedly made announcements for passengers to observe onboard norms. One of the announcements said: “Please understand, we all are equal. Please do not harass any passenger. Kindly follow all safety rules and remain seated till seat belt is on.”
The DGCA sought a report from the airline. After getting the same last month, the regulator had written to that “a number of violations have happened on the day.…” The violations listed in this letter were: not stopping the large number media personnel boarding the flight with big cameras in Chandigarh itself by taking help of security personnel; these passengers not following crew instructions during flight and even after landing; not following COVID-19 protocol.
The DGCA has warned all airlines that allowing a repeat of such behaviour will lead to the airline being suspending from operating that route — on which such an instance takes place — for two weeks.