Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad hits Air India staffer; airline looks at grounding unruly fliers


MUMBAI: A Shiv Sena MP hit an Air India employee with a slipper over seating issues on Thursday while de-planing from a Pune-Delhi flight. The MP, Ravindra Gaikwad, later admitted to the assault.

“Maine sandal se pachhees maara (I hit him 25 times with a sandal),’’ Gaikwad told media channels later. The flight, AI 852, landed at the Delhi airport at 9:35 am and was supposed to take off for Goa at 10:55 am. Gailwad, however refused to disembark from the aircraft.

He later said he had complained about seating issues — he had an open business class ticket but was given an economy seat as it was an all-economy flight — and sought to speak to the airline crew member’s superior officer.

Reacting to the incident an Air India spokesman said the airline is examining the creation of a no-fly list of unruly passengers on the lines of other carriers.

According to a police report filed by the national carrier, its shift manager, upon learning the situation, rushed to the scene and requested Gaikwad to deplane “since 115 passengers are waiting to board the flight to Goa”. He refused, instead demanding that the airline’s chairman come to the aircraft and resolve his complaint.

According to the report, one of the employees at the airline’s groundhandling agency told Gaikwad that “he was an elected representative of the people and should behave accordingly”.

That irked him and he hit the employee with a slipper and tried to throw him out of the aircraft, the report said. He assaulted other employees who went to help.

The airline’s chairman, Ashwani Lohani, wrote to employees saying that in case of such incidents, the airport manager should file a report with the local police without waiting for any approvals.

Aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju condemned Gaikwad’s act while aviation minister of state for civil aviation Jayant Sinha said “unruly behaviour and violence on our aviation network is regrettable. Each such incident will be investigated and appropriate action taken,’’ he said.

“We are also working on creating institutional mechanisms to check undesirable flight behaviour or unruly passengers,” Raju said in a series of tweets.

Later, Shiv Sena sought an explanation from Gaikwad on the incident. “The Sena does not condone violence of any kind,” Harshal Pradhan, media adviser to Sena president Uddhav Thackeray, said.

He said the party will also try to find out the conduct of Gaikwad in the last two years and that of the Air India staffer.

Industry watchers expressed doubts over the action the state-run carrier can take given the presence of unions affiliated to several political parties, including the Shiv Sena, in its staff. Incidents of violence against crew have happened before, often perpetrated by powerful individuals.