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Airlines miffed as government revokes flying ban on Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad

Analysts believe that the government should have completely stayed away from this ban issue, as it was a matter between the airlines and the MP.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Apr 11, 2017, 11.37 AM IST
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MP Gaikwad beat up an Air India ground staff on March 23, 2017, because he had to travel economy class in an all-economy aircraft.
MP Gaikwad beat up an Air India ground staff on March 23, 2017, because he had to travel economy class in an all-economy aircraft.
NEW DELHI: The government’s decision to revoke the ban on Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad has miffed all airlines that had come together on the issue for the first time and barred the MP from flying in India. The airlines feel that revoking the ban would only embolden such elements, who would feel that they can get away with anything.

“The rollback should not have happened, as the MP did not apologise to the staff, whom he beat up. The government’s intervention in revoking the ban only shows that one can get away by doing anything on the basis of his connections,” said a senior executive of a private airline, who did not wish to be identified, as he does not want to be speaking against the government.

MP Gaikwad beat up an Air India ground staff on March 23, 2017, because he had to travel economy class in an all-economy aircraft. He had a business class ticket but the flight did not have business class seats. All airlines banned him from flying, which was revoked by the aviation ministry after he wrote a regret letter to Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju.

Another senior executive of another private airline feels that neither the police nor the government acted sensibly in this case. “Despite two police complaints, the MP was neither detained nor arrested. This clearly shows that the intention was never to act against him, which beats the cause,” said another executive, on the condition of anonymity.

Analysts believe that the government should have completely stayed away from this ban issue, as it was a matter between the airlines and the MP.

“With this intervention, the government has only shown that the aviation regulators and airlines are not independent in the country. The government intervention, I believe, was based on some political benefits. If the government continues to intervene like this, then none of us are flying in India safely,” said Mohan Ranganathan, Chennai-based air safety analyst, who had been part of the government committees.

Others say that no action would set a bad precedent. “The lack of penal action against the person who assaulted a senior Air India staffer with his footwear and then brazenly defended his action on national television has hurt the industry. Many wonder if a common man had committed the same act, would he get away by simply ‘regretting the unfortunate incident’ and his associates threatening to block flights from their hometown? We hope that the police investigation will lead to a logical conclusion and not an ‘amicable settlement’ being thrust on the airline staffer. Else it may set a dangerous precedent for the future,” said Amber Dubey, partner and India head of aerospace and defence at global consultancy KPMG.

Some, however, believe that they could achieve something through all this. “Earlier, the aviation regulator used to see any such incident as a service issue and not as a safety issue. With this incident, the regulator’s view has changed and the sector might get a ‘no-fly list’ soon,” said a third airline executive.

Some analysts also feel that this two-week ban had sent out a clear message. “The message from the ban is loud and clear -- you can get away by doing anything. Also, this ban had to end some day or the other, and I do think that his apology is enough for his ban to be revoked. No flying ban can be indefinite and it should not be even under the no-fly list,” said Shakti Lumba, who was head of operations at Air India and IndiGo.

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