Air India criticised by regulator over handling of unruly passenger on flight

FILE PHOTO: A bird flies over a logo of Air India airlines at the corporate headquarters in Mumbai

NEW DELHI (Reuters) -Air India faced criticism on Thursday from the aviation regulator for its handling of an unruly passenger on a flight from New York in November, and also acknowledged that a second similar incident occurred last month on a flight from Paris to Delhi.

Air India had said in a statement released on Wednesday that it had banned a male passenger for 30 days in compliance with regulations following an incident on a Nov. 26 flight from New York to Delhi in which the man, while apparently inebriated, urinated on a fellow female passenger.

The airline, which is owned by Tata Group, said it had reported the matter to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), India's air safety watchdog, for further action.

DGCA, however, said on Thursday that it had sought details from the airline on the incident, but at first glance it appeared that Air India had not complied with provisions related to the handling of an unruly passenger onboard. "The conduct of the concerned airline appears to be unprofessional and has led to a systemic failure," DGCA said in its statement.

The watchdog said it had issued a notice to the airline's executives and the pilots and cabin crew members on the flight asking them to explain within two weeks why action should not be taken against them for failing to uphold regulations.

It did not respond to a request for comment seeking details on what action it had expected the airline to take.

Air India did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters on the DGCA notice.

In 2017, India issued new standards barring unruly passengers from flying for a minimum of three months to more than two years depending on the nature of the misdemeanour.

Air India reported on Thursday a second incident, which took place on a Dec. 6 fight from Paris to Delhi during which a male passenger urinated on a vacant seat and the blanket of another passenger.

Air India added that the male passenger on the Paris flight had been taken into custody on arrival at Delhi but was later released by federal police after he reached an understanding with the victim and tendered a written apology. The airline said it did not lodge a police report in deference to the victim's wishes.

(Reporting by Tanvi Mehta in New Delhi and Shubham Kalia and Jyoti Narayan in Bengaluru; editing by Sudipto Ganguly and Susan Fenton)