No-fly for Sena's Gaikwad: AI stands firm under pressure

Shiv Sena MP Ravindra GaikwadNational carrier Air India is standing firm against allowing Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad – who beat up one of its staffers - to fly on its planes, having cancelled his ticket yet again on Tuesday.

According to reports, the MP tried to book a Mumbai-Delhi AI flight through a call centre. He wanted to fly AI 806 at 8am on Wednesday.

Air India found out that the MP - who has refused to apologise for beating up a 60-year-old AI staffer with his sandal last Thursday - was trying to fly to Delhi and cancelled his ticket.

"We have standing instructions not to allow the honourable MP on any of our flights. He can try to get his open tickets endorsed on our flights but will not be able to fly," said a senior AI official.

AI, along with private airlines including Jet, IndiGo, SpiceJet, GoAir and Vistara, have decided not to allow Gaikwad on their flights (See: Airlines unite to bar 'slapgate' MP Gaikwad from flying again). They are standing firm despite the massive pressure being mounted by the political class - extending beyond Gaikwad's Shiv Sena - to have the ban revoked.

Turned down by all airlines, the MP is learnt to be taking the Mumbai-Delhi Rajdhani train now.

The aviation ministry is under pressure to get airlines to start flying Gaikwad again. "We will not take a stand on this case and are looking at the issue in its entirety - whether airlines can ban a person indefinitely from flying under existing rules. We will soon have a national no-fly list that will bar people from flying from varying periods of times for different offences," said a senior ministry official.

Last Friday - a day after beating the AI staffer - Gaikwad first saw his ticket cancelled by AI to fly on a Delhi-Pune flight. Then his travel agent had booked a Friday evening (24 March) ticket on the same sector on IndiGo but this airline also cancelled his ticket. Gaikwad then took the Rajdhani to Mumbai on Friday but got off near Mathura, from where he reached his town in Maharashtra by road.

All airlines say they are on "high alert" as Gaikwad has plans to be in Delhi on Wednesday and will try to fly. "Luckily his is not a common name. We will run checks on any Ravindra Gaiwkad booking a ticket, especially on sectors on which he is likely to try to seek to fly, to ensure that the honourable MP does not get on our flights," said a private airline official.

Gaikwad is being seen as a threat as airlines are not sure when he may get violent again and try to beat up crew members or fellow passengers.