Pee-gate: Did Air India staff flout liquor policy while serving man who urinated on co-passenger?

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The Tata-owned Air India is going through a case of a bad hangover as it faces action from the airline regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation over the recent incidents of passengers misbehaving on board.

First came ‘pee-gate’ in which a man, now identified as Shankar Mishra, urinated on a woman passenger in her 70s while he was drunk on a plane from New York to Delhi in November. According to reports, after he had finished urinating, Mishra just stood there in front of the woman, his genitals exposed. He only moved away when another passenger intervened. The Mumbai-based man is now arrested.

Following this horror, came the second incident on a Paris-New Delhi flight dated 6 December 2022. In this case, a drunk flyer was caught smoking in the lavatory and not listening to the crew. And another passenger allegedly relieved himself on a vacant seat and blanket of a fellow female passenger when she went to the lavatory.

The two incidents have left Air India in an embarrassing situation with the head of Tata Sons conglomerate N Chandrasekaran expressing “anguish”, saying the airline should have been swifter in its response. Air India CEO Campbell Wilson also apologised and said four cabin crew and a pilot had been de-rostered. He added that the airline was reviewing its policy of serving alcohol on flights.

“Air India is deeply concerned about the in-flight instances where customers have suffered due to the condemnable acts of their co-passengers on our aircraft. We regret and are pained about these experiences,” Wilson said in a statement, adding, “Air India acknowledges that it could have handled these matters better, both in the air and on the ground and is committed to taking action.”

The incident has prompted several questions on how much alcohol does Air India serve during its flights. Does it serve unlimited liquor? Let’s take a closer look.

Liquor on domestic flights

Today, no airline is allowed to serve liquor on domestic flights. This rule was implemented in 1994 after the Ministry of Civil Aviation received several complaints of flyers getting inebriated and misbehaving with the airline staff and other passengers.

“We are taking this step in view of the number of incidents reported when passengers had become intoxicated during flights, posing hazards to flight safety,” then Aviation Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had said.

Also read: Air India urination case: Why a female passenger never pees on a man

Getting boozy in international flights

When it comes to international flights, the alcohol policy differs from airline to airline. Air India has its own lengthy policy on serving liquor on international flights.
According to their policy, a passenger can’t be served more than two drinks on a flight that is less than four hours. Moreover, the amount of alcohol served is determined by the class the passenger is travelling on. If you are flying economy, you will be served lesser than that of a flyer in the business or first class.

As Air India officials explained, “Air India doesn’t serve unlimited alcohol to passengers on long-haul flights. There is a quota, which is determined by the passenger’s class of travel.”

The Tata-owner airline also specifies that alcohol will only be served to flyers at their seats. The amount of alcohol per drink is also detailed; one drink is defined as a 12-ounce beer, a full glass of wine or champagne, or one miniature bottle of liquor.

Also, flyers below the age of 18 shall not be served any liquor under any circumstance.

Passengers flying on shorter flights, not more than four hours, will be served no more than two drinks. However, if the flight is longer then there must be a break of at least three hours before serving additional drinks once three drinks are served to the passenger. It is important to note that the airline policy mentions that these restrictions may not apply to passengers travelling in business class.

Also read: Urinating on planes, starting brawls: Are Indian flyers suffering from air rage?

The Air India cabin crew is also advised to stop the service of liquor to intoxicated passengers. Also, the policy reads, “In such an event, and as abundant precaution, the duty free liquor, which the passenger may have with them, should be removed for safe custody and restored to the passenger at the destination.”

Flyers speak

The recent incidents of inebriated passengers misbehaving in the skies has also sparked a debate on whether alcohol should be served while flying.

Also read: What's the punishment for urinating on co-passengers, fighting on flights?

A survey conducted by LocalCircles showed that nearly 48 per cent of respondents felt that liquor shouldn’t be served on board international flights. However, 42 per cent were in favour of serving alcohol.

Bharatiya Janata Party leader Amit Malviya had also chimed into the issue, saying he wasn’t in support of alcohol being served on flights.

The survey also showed that 50 per cent of respondents saying that all passengers should be required to mandatorily give an undertaking about not boarding the flight in an inebriated state. Additionally, 40 per cent of the people surveyed wanted boarding agents or staff to be authorised to conduct a breathalyser test and “reject boarding” based on predefined parameters.

With inputs from agencies

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Pee-gate: Did Air India staff flout liquor policy while serving man who urinated on co-passenger?
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