Air India urination incident: Drunk man not in senses but buck stops with pilot, says co-passenger
A US-based doctor seated next to the man who urinated on a woman in an inebriated state on an Air India flight from New York to Delhi said that Mishra had four stiff drinks through lunch.
NEW YORK: A drunk person may not be in his senses but the flight crew showed no compassion and failed in their responsibility, said a US-based doctor seated next to the man who urinated on a woman in an inebriated state on an Air India flight from New York to Delhi.
In an interview to PTI, Dr Sugata Bhattacharjee narrated the sordid events in the business class cabin of Flight AI102 on November 26, which have become front-page news after they came to light last week.
Bhattacharjee, who is based in New Hampshire state, wrote an elaborate complaint to Air India immediately after the flight landed, detailing his experience with his co-passenger Shankar Mishra and his interactions with the cabin crew He told PTI he is speaking out now to elaborate on the complaint because of claims by Mishra's father that his son is innocent and may have been a victim of extortion.
"It was a moral call for me, it was morality and I thought it was my moral obligation to stand and make a complaint and I did," he said.
The buck stops with the pilot, the US-based doctor said, recounting that Mishra had four stiff drinks through lunch.
He had also alerted a male crew member about Mishra having one too many and to keep an eye on him.
Pointing to multiple failures in the "procedural part", the US-based audiologist, who made a handwritten complaint to the airline, told PTI that to make the woman talk to Mishra after the incident was a "no-no because indecent exposure is a crime."
"It's a sexual assault. And once that happens, nobody should take a mediation route," he said.
"I was angry. I don't care about what a drunk man did because he's not in his senses and that's why he does it. But people who had the power and the authority, they showed no compassion. In a plane, the pilot is the chief person and the buck stops with him."
While Bhattacharjee was in seat 8A, Mishra was in seat 8C in business class.
Mishra, 34, who was missing for a few days after the incident came to light has been arrested from Bengaluru and sent to judicial remand for 14 days by a Delhi court.
"The whole incident is very sad. The dignity of a senior citizen was played with because of over-intake of alcohol, a young person is in trouble, he has lost his job, his family, everybody else around him is going through a hard time, including him," Bhattacharjee told PTI in the phone interview.
In his complaint to Air India, Bhattacharjee said the woman was made to go back to her soiled seat despite four seats in the First Class being vacant.
His complaint was, he said, that a lot of standard operating protocols were not followed.
"When something like this happens, you first contain a distressed passenger."
Mishra had passed out and nobody even wanted to wake him up because nobody knew how he would behave.
"They waited for him to wake up," he said.
After the incident, Bhattacharjee said, the crew should have taken it upon themselves to ensure she was moved to a different seat.
Instead, she was made to wait for a long time.
It was only after the crew rest was over that she was given a seat that became available.
"That is a no no. And that is what I protested," he said.
When he asked why the elderly woman was not being given an available first-class seat, he was told by the senior flight attendant that she cannot make that decision.
Only the pilot in command can take that call.
"And that call was not made. So this is a failure," he said.
In his view, the crew should not have put the victim and Mishra face-to-face for any negotiation.
Instead, the captain should have alerted the ground staff before landing and ensured that Mishra is handed over to the authorities who would have taken the appropriate action, he said.
"My anger was that nobody stood up to the responsibility and there were multiple failures in the procedural part. The pilot, Bhattacharjee said, should have done "anything and everything" to help and support the lady in all possible manner after such a traumatic incident.
According to Bhattacharjee, Mishra would drink and he would just point to his glass and they would come and refill it.
Mishra had then fallen asleep.
At some point, Bhattacharjee woke up when Mishra "practically" fell on his seat.
Bhattacharjee said he thought Mishra lost his balance because of turbulence.
The doctor then slept.
After he woke up he saw Mishra was awake, had sobered up and the crew had already spoken to him once about the incident.
"The first thing Mishra said was 'Bro I think I am in trouble'. And my answer was, 'yes, you are'. And, he's like, I don't know what to do, I don't remember anything happening. I had not slept, I had too many drinks."
As Mishra sobered up, he seemed afraid, he said.
"But nothing justifies things like that. I am a man of giving people a second chance. But I still can't understand why he did that - If you cannot handle alcohol, you should not drink that amount," Bhattacharjee said.
Before the incident, when he was talking to Mishra, he felt the younger man seemed a little incoherent.
The doctor said Mishra asked him thrice about how many kids he had and what they did.
It was then that he alerted a male crew member.
"He had consumed enough. He was not in his senses," the doctor said.
After the incident, Mishra came back to his seat and passed out.
Bhattacharjee described the elderly woman as very soft-spoken and said she was almost in tears after the horrific incident.
She did not create any scene and did not shout or scream. "She was very quiet, she's a very, very decent lady." Bhattacharjee said he made a written complaint about the incident the very same day.
He said he had asked for a complaint book but was handed over two pieces of white paper on which he wrote his complaint.
He noted that two young crew members working in economy class wore gloves and helped clean the mess.
Bhattacharjee said his thoughts are with everybody. "For the lady, who is a senior citizen, for the family of Mishra, who has a daughter and wife. If you can't handle your drink, don't drink. I still feel Air India has one of the best connectivity and one bad apple should not tarnish the name of such a big organisation. And people should do their job. That's it," he added.