Mumbai: An expat pilot with Jet Airways has been accused of hurling “racist” comments and assaulting a woman besides abusing a physically challenged man on a domestic flight, prompting the airline to deroster him.
The incident aboard a Chandigarh-Mumbai Jet flight on April 3 came to light when cricketer Harbhajan Singh tweeted about it today.
Expressing regret over the incident, the airline said today that corrective action would be taken as per company policy, and after due investigation.
The pilot concerned remains derostered since the day of the incident, the airline said in a statement.
Harbhajan while giving details of the incident, however, said he was not on the flight. He said he learnt of it through an acquaintance.
“We are proud Indians, not ‘bloody Indians’… I don’t need apology, I want this captain to be out of India so no one dare to (sic) call us bloody Indians,” Singh told PTI.
The cricketer condemned the incident as “disgraceful”.
In a series of tweets, the cricketer alleged that the pilot assaulted a woman and abused a physically challenged man.
“So called this Bernd Hoesslin a pilot with @jetairways called my fellow Indian (u bloody Indian get out of my flight) while he is earning here,” he said.
“Not only was he a racist, but physically assaulted a lady and abused a physically challenged man… absolutely disgraceful and shame on @jetairways,” the cricketer said but did not give details.
Demanding that strict action be taken and such things not be allowed or tolerated in the country, Singh tweeted “#proudtobeindian let’s get together and sort this”.
The incident involved passengers Puja Gujral and her wheelchair-bound friend Jitendra Shah.
Gujral, who claims to be close to Harbhajan’s wife Geeta Basra, said when the plane landed in Mumbai there was a delay in arranging a wheelchair for Shah, which allegedly infuriated the pilot.
“The plane had to take off for Chennai on its next leg and there had been a delay of more than 20 minutes because of some confusion over a wheelchair for my friend. As a result the pilot got angry and came out of the cockpit and pushed me and said ‘you bloody Indians just get out of my flight’,” Gujral claimed.
“When my friend intervened the pilot told him ‘you little one you get out first’,” she added.
Gujral also said that she approached the local police two days later to file a case. However, no FIR has been lodged yet, she added.
A Jet Airways statement said it has already issued an apology to the passengers concerned.
“The airline has as per policy initiated a full-fledged investigation, based on specific inputs from guests, concerned departments and agencies,” it added.
The airline emphasised that it has zero tolerance towards any action of its employees that contravenes local or international laws prevalent in the countries of its operations.
“Additionally, we have a strict employee code of conduct which is based on the values and ethos of the airline.”
The tweets from Singh also come at a time when Jet Airways’ local pilots body NAG has raised concerns about the behaviour of expat pilots with the airline.
Last week, the National Aviators Guild (NAG) had said the carrier is treating Indian pilots in a “step-motherly” manner compared to their expat counterparts on the rolls.
Demanding swift action against alleged racist approach of the expat pilots at the airline, the guild had called for disallowing such pilots in the cockpit.
NAG has also asked its members not to fly with the expats in the cockpit after one of the foreign pilots allegedly assaulted a trainer in Bengaluru recently.
Jet Airways has nearly 60 expat commanders who mainly operate its Boeing 737 and ATR fleet.
In response to NAG’s allegations, the airline last week said it has a strict and common code for employees.