Despite Parliament ruckus, Air India is still no go for Gaikwad
07 April 2017
Air India continues to refuse to fly Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad, having cancelled his tickets between Mumbai and Delhi for later this month.
Gaikwad assaulted an Air India manager on 23 March and on Wednesday told the Lok Sabha that while he apologises to Parliament if he has "hurt its image", he will not apologise to the 60-year-old man he assaulted.
A union of Air India employees said the airline must boycott the politician till he delivers an "unconditional apology" and commits in writing to follow norms for "cabin safety and public behaviour".
However, Gaikwad said he has made no new attempt to book Air India tickets. "I didn't book any tickets ... let Air India check it," he said.
Seeking to get around a ban imposed on him by all airlines without actually apologising, Gaikwad on Wednesday said in a note that he "regrets the unfortunate incident". The letter was given to civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju, who had to be rushed out of the Lok Sabha to protect him from Sena minister Anant Geete who tore towards him in a fit of rage (See: Huge ruckus in Lok Sabha over Gaikwad air travel ban).
Raju, after hearing Gaikwad's defence in Parliament, said that whether or not an MP was involved, the safety of passengers could not be compromised - a firm rebuke to the Sena leader, whose party could not countenance that comment and responded characteristically with a string of threats which included warning that flights would not be able to take off from Mumbai. A Sena spokesperson asked, "Who does the CMD of Air India think he is?"
Gaikwad faces two criminal cases by the national carrier. Outlining his version of events in Parliament, he claimed that the manager he beat with his slipper "25 times" - a feat he bragged about on the day of the assault - had provoked him by insulting MPs in general and him in particular by asking "Who are you? Narendra Modi?" The Sena MP claimed he was shoved first, after which he let loose.
The Sena has said that it has a video to prove this, though it has mysteriously not released the footage. The only video shared so far of the assault shows Air India employees pleading with Gaikwad to end the beating he was inflicting.
Gaikwad has accused Air India of poor service - he says his business class ticket from Pune to Delhi was not honoured. The flight operated as an all-economy trip.
The MP says he had not been informed of this; the airline says he was. When the flight landed, Gaikwad refused to disembark. A manager boarded the plane to reason with him, after which the lashing erupted.