IndiGo airline today apologised to the government over a brawl between one of its ground staff and a passenger, but maintained that the employee was “doing his work”. Civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju has sought an independent probe by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation after a video surfaced on Tuesday showing an IndiGo ground staff entering into a scuffle with passenger Rajeev Katiyal at the Delhi airport last month. “At the very outset, let me start off by acknowledging that we were at fault and we not only apologise for the regrettable incident, we have also taken action,” IndiGo President and Whole-time Director Aditya Ghosh wrote in a letter Raju. He said that he apologised to the passenger on the same day the incident took place and the employees involved were immediately suspended. While giving a chronology of events in the letter, the IndiGo president also backed his employee Juby Thomas who was seen in the video entering into a scuffle with Katiyal.
“He was indeed doing his work and ensuring safety of passengers,” the letter said. It said that Thomas was asking Katiyal to move away from a catering lift to “prevent any accident”. However, when the passenger could not hear Thomas, the latter “started shouting in a much louder voice to overcome the very loud ambient noise around the aircraft”, which might have been construed as rude by Katiyal, it said.
According to IndiGo, the passenger abused the airline staff and the employee turned around and asked Katiyal why was he abusing. In the video, it is after this argument that things begin to spiral out of control. Ghosh has included screenshots of the video to explain how the events unfolded last month. The airline also defended its move to sack another ground staff Montu Kalra for shooting the video and said he “instigated the incident”.
“The ex-employee, Montu Kalra who was terminated and is claiming to be the ‘whistleblower’, is the one you can hear shouting in the video and instructing the other two colleagues who were junior to him to prevent the customer from boarding the bus and holding him back at the ramp area itself,” Ghosh wrote. The incident on the Delhi airport tarmac took place on October 15 and the video starts with Thomas asking Katiyal not to abuse. The passenger continues to walk towards the shuttle bus and a voice can be heard asking the ground personnel to stop him. After this, Thomas can be seen pulling him out of the coach. A second ground personnel Sahiv Sharma indicates to the bus driver to depart to the airport terminal.
A scuffle suddenly breaks out between Thomas and Katiyal. The video doesn’t show who made the first move. Sharma tries to restrain the passenger by putting his arms around Katiyal’s chest. Katiyal later breaks free from his grip and attacks Thomas and grabs him around his neck. In the ensuing melee he falls onto the ground and Thomas is seen with his hand on the passenger’s collar bone.