Air India, the former national air carrier of India, under the new ownership of Tata Group, is planning for a major overhaul. The transformation plans of the airline include purchasing new aircrafts, 840 of which were recently ordered, merger with Vistara, refurbishing entire fleet and starting new routes. As per the airline’s CEO Campbell Wilson, Air India has an enormous potential and efforts are on to make the group a significant international player in the aviation market. Once known for its ‘Maharaja Experience’, a string of food and delay related incidents battered the image of India’s national air carrier in 2000s.
However, with Tata Group acquiring back the Air India from the government, things started to look bright, with many passengers sharing their flying experience in the Air India flights. Come 2023, a spree of unruly passenger incidents, and social media backlash related to food and other services has put Air India on back foot again. The incident that made the biggest noise among all such incidents was the Air India Pee-Gate episode by Shankar Mishra, a Mumbai based banker who is accused of peeing on an elderly female passenger, reportedly in an inebriated state.
This resulted in DGCA imposing a hefty Rs 30 lakh fine on Air India and suspending the pilot’s licence for 3 months. The airline’s CEO admitted to the mistakes made in the case by the crew and said the airline has now become strict and is reporting all such cases of unruly behaviour. Wilson said that the airline has learnt lessons and it could have reacted better to the issues surrounding the unruly passenger peeing incident which occurred in November last year. The CEO said that the airline has realised the importance of reporting incidents.
Here’s a look at the recent incidents involving Air India:
1. Pee-Gate on New York-Delhi Flight
An incident of urination on an Air India international flight from New York to Delhi shook the entire aviation industry of India recently. The incident happened on November 26, 2022, when an allegedly intoxicated passenger Shankar Mishra peed on an elderly woman in the business class of the flight. The incident was not reported to the police, or aviation authorities at the moment and came to light in 2023, resulting in the arrest of Mishra from Bengaluru. Recently, DGCA slammed the airline and said “everybody failed” as the “case was not reported and people tried to cover it up”.
2. Chef Sanjeev Kapoor’s in-flight meal
Renowned celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor recently took to Twitter to hit out at Air India after he was served unsatisfactory meals on a flight from Nagpur to Mumbai. The Chef shared multiple photos of the food served on the flight and complained about the quality of the in-flight meal served on the Air India’s domestic flight. Sharing photos of the meal on the flight, Sanjeev Kapoor wrote, “Wake Up @airindiain. Nagpur-Mumbai 0740 flight. Cold Chicken Tikka with watermelon, cucumber, tomato & sev Sandwich with minuscule filling of chopped cabbage with mayo Sugar syrup Sponge painted with sweetened cream & yellow glaze.”
3. Diplomat slams AI for lounge at NYC Airport
Dr K.J. Srinivasa, an Indian diplomat, working as the India’s High Commissioner of India to Guyana, Antigua & Barbuda, and St.Kitts & Nevis, recently complained about the poor facilities at Air India’s business class lounge at the John F. Kennedy airport in New York. He alleged that the Air India business class lounge at JFK Airport had “empty food containers, disposable plates and cutlery and unresponsive staff”. He tweeted, “@TataCompanies can splurge billions on buying new aircraft why not pay some attention to revamping existing lounge @RNTata2000.”
4. Smoking on Paris-New Delhi flight
Days after the peeing incident on the New York-Delhi flight made headlines, incidents of smoking and peeing on the Air India international flight came to the light. Like the Pee-Gate episode, the airline failed to report the unruly passenger behaviour to the DGCA, resulting a fine of Rs 10 lakh. Allegedly, two drunk passengers were engaged in unruly passenger behaviour, in which one smoked in the flight and another peed on an empty seat on Paris-New Delhi flight.
5. Business Class passenger finds insect in food
An Air India passenger, travelling in business class from Mumbai to Chennai, shared a video of an insect he found in his in-flight meal. “@airindiain insect in the meal served in businessclass. Doesn’t look like hygiene was taken. My flight was AI671 -Mumbai to chennai Seat 2C,” passenger Mahavir Jain tweeted. Air India said: “Could you please DM your date of travel, and flight details along with the seat number? We’ll highlight this to our catering team for immediate review and action,” the airline said.