A member of India’s Parliament was unrepentant after repeatedly slapping the 62-year-old duty manager of an Air India flight with his sandal in a rage over a coupon for a business-class seat on an economy-only class flight.
Police opened an investigation against Ravindra Gaikwad, a member of Parliament, after Air India filed a pair of complaints that he had assaulted one of its crew Thursday and delayed the plane’s next flight to Goa, disrupting the schedules of its 150 passengers. He also was banned from flying by the Federation of Indian Airlines, including on a flight Friday.
Gaikwad, from the far-right Shiv Sena political party that is part of India’s ruling coalition, filed his own complaint with police, saying he had been insulted, pushed and yelled at during the confrontation.
Air India officials said the legislator’s office was told in advance that Flight AI 852, a 1,400-kilometer trip from Pune to New Delhi, didn’t have business-class seats. He was carrying a coupon for business class on the route and could have chosen two other flights that did offer that service but preferred the timing of AI 852.
Gaikwad refused to get off the plane for nearly 45 minutes after it landed and readily admitted to reporters that he’d slapped Sukumar Raman — who was responsible for getting the aircraft ready for its next flight to Goa — “25 times” with his slippers after he was pressured to leave.
Caught on video
Shaky video of the incident shows a scuffle at the plane’s open door. Raman’s glasses were broken, his sweater was torn and buttons were ripped from his shirt.
“I will not apologize,” Gaikwad told reporters, daring police to arrest him. “He should come and apologize. Then we will see. A 60-year-old man should also know how to behave.”
Raman told India’s ANI news agency that Gaikwad “hit me, used foul language and not only broke my specs but humiliated me in front of the entire crew.”
He said Gaikwad had refused to move when he was told that Air India management would not talk with him as he demanded.
“I told him I will have to complain to his higher-ups,” Raman told the Mumbai Mirror. “He asked me who will I complain to. I replied that, if required, I will complain to Modi [Narendra Modi, the prime minister]. As soon as I uttered that, he took out his chappal [sandal] and started hitting me.
“He tried to push me through one door of the aircraft. I ducked and came to another door where the stepladder was positioned. But he tried to lift me and throw me off the ladder. The crew and my colleagues intervened and tried to stop him.
“He was very aggressive. It was something like what happens in a road rage.”