Following a 15 day standoff, Air India today lifted the ban on Shiv Sena lawmaker Ravindra Gaikwad, one day after he apologized in the Lok Sabha. On Thursday, the 56-year-old lawmaker also sent a letter to the Civil Aviation Minister expressing his regret over the now infamous episode of 23 March.
The Civil Aviation Ministry wrote to Air India asking it to revoke the ban, ANI reported today. The Times of India reported that the government ordered Air India to immediately lift the ban even though the management of the national carrier wanted Gaikwad to apologize to its employee.
Earlier today, the AI Cabin Crew Association (AICCA) on Friday described Gaikwad as a "flight risk."
While Gaikwad apologized to Parliament on Thursday, he has steadfastly refused to apologize to either Air India or its 60-year-old employee whom he assaulted with his slipper over seating allocation on a Pune-New Delhi flight. Gaikwad was upset that he was made to travel economy when he had a ticket for the business class. He refused to deplane.
Gaikwad also claimed that the official had misbehaved with him.
In the face of national outrage, Gaikwad refused to apologize. "Kaahe ka pashchaataap (what is there to repent)?" he said. "I will not apologize...he [AI Manager Sukumar] should come and apologize... then we will see. A 60-year-old man should also know how to behave."
"Maine sandal se pachhis maara, (I rained 25 blows on him with my slipper)," he said.
Last week, the Hindustan Times reported that Gaikwad had tried to get around the ban by using "different honorifics and spellings of his name" to buy tickets including "Ravindra Gaikwad, R Gaikwad, Prof V Ravindra Gaikwad and Prof Ravindra Gaikwad."
Speaking in the Lok Sabha on Thursday, he said, "I apologize to Parliament if I've caused any hurt, but not to the Air India official... The AI staff abused me and pulled me by my collar. The AI staff who misbehaved with me is roaming scot-free. But here I am with curbs from all airlines."
Over the course of the past two weeks, Air India thwarted at least two attempts by Gaikwad to book tickets. He has also been banned by five private airlines. Citing sources, ANI reported today that private airlines are likely to follow Air India's decision and revoke their ban.
In his letter to the Union Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapthi Raju, Gaikwad wrote, "I write to convey my regrets for the unfortunate incident that took place on 23rd March, 2017 in the Air India Flight No. AI-852 seat No. 1F."
"It could have been no one's intention to have let the situation aggravate to the level that it eventually did. While the on-going investigation will bring out the factual sequence of events to fix responsibility, this incident may kindly not be seen as a reason for likely recurrence of such an event in future also," the lawmaker wrote.
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