Tells airline it should have consulted him, says Kamra was not unruly.
New Delhi: The pilot of the IndiGo Mumbai-Lucknow flight in which standup comedian Kunal Kamra allegedly “heckled” journalist Arnab Goswami on Tuesday has written to his airline objecting to the ban on Kamra, saying that at no point was he unruly and had obeyed the instructions of the pilot. The aircraft captain added that Kamra had never endangered safety or disobeyed any instructions, leading to questions about the way IndiGo had banned him, without any formal inquiry.
Under the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR), only a temporary 30-day ban can be imposed on passengers pending an inquiry by a committee. For offensive behaviour designed to provoke and create a disturbance, also seen as disruptive behaviour, a passenger can be banned for a maximum of three months, while “physically abusive behaviour” and “endangering the aircraft and passengers” carry bans of six months and two years respectively.
IndiGo announced a ban of six months while other airlines — Air India, SpiceJet and GoAir — did not give any timeframe for the ban. Vistara has said that its internal committee is examining matters.
Capt. Rohit Mateti is learnt to have written to IndiGo’s management, saying: “I was disheartened to learn that my airline has taken action in this case solely on the basis of social media posts with no consultation whatsoever with pilot-in-command. This is somewhat unprecedented in my nine years of airline flying. Moving forward, am I to understand that the bar for interpretation of a disruptive passenger is lower/different when it comes to a high-profile case? I would like a clarification from the airline as it leaves a lot of room for ambiguity.”
Capt. Mateti has in his letter also given out details of the flight and the incident, saying that “while Kamra’s behaviour was unacceptable and verbally abusive, at no point of time he did not comply with crew instructions”. He added Kamra went back to his seat every time an announcement was made and he had later apologised to him about his conduct. He added that Arnab Goswami had been asked if he wanted to lodge any complaint.
“After the flight, when most of the passengers had deplaned, Mr Kamra requested permission to enter the flight deck to speak with me to personally apologise again... I asked him if this issue was political in nature, which he confirmed. I advised him that while we are all entitled to our opinions there is a time and place to voice them, and that mid-flight was no place for it. He agreed, thanked us and left the aircraft,” the pilot added.
While IndiGo had promptly imposed the ban on Mr Kamra, all other airlines acted after minister of state for civil aviation Hardeep Singh Puri advised them to take action, saying: “Offensive behaviour designed to provoke and create disturbance inside an aircraft is absolutely unacceptable and endangers the safety of air travellers. We are left with no option but to advise other airlines to impose similar restrictions on the person concerned.”
Mr Kamra had in a statement said he had apologised to the crew and the pilots of the plane, but he had no regrets as he did it for his “hero” Rohit Vemula.