An expatriate Jet Airways pilot accused of making racist comments, assaulting a woman and abusing a physically challenged passenger has been derostered by the airline.
The incident occurred on a Chandigarh-Mumbai Jet Airways flight on 3 April, but only came to light when cricketer Harbhajan Singh tweeted about it on Thursday.
According to Singh, friends of his wife were mistreated by the pilot and no action had been taken against the employee for over three weeks.
Singh, on Wednesday, explained in a series of tweets:
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— Harbhajan Turbanator (@harbhajan_singh) April 26, 2017
Not only was he racist but physically assaulted a lady and abused a physically challenged man..absolutely disgraceful &shame on @jetairways— Harbhajan Turbanator (@harbhajan_singh) April 26, 2017
Strict action must b taken &such things should not be allowed or tolerated in r country.. #proudtobeindian let's get together and sort this— Harbhajan Turbanator (@harbhajan_singh) April 26, 2017
Saying that it regretted the incident, Jet Airways issued a statement:
"The airline has as per policy initiated a full-fledged investigation, based on specific inputs from guests, concerned departments and agencies... We have zero tolerance towards any action of our employees that contravenes local or international laws prevalent in the countries of our operations... Additionally, we have a strict employee code of conduct which is based on the values and ethos of the airline."
Singh, however, told PTI that an apology wasn't enough. He said:
"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."
The cricketer condemned the incident, which involved passengers Puja Gujral and her wheelchair-bound friend Jitendra Shah, as "disgraceful".
Gujral, who is close to Singh's wife Geeta Basra, said that 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 said.
"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 after the incident to file a case but they did not lodge an FIR.
A statement by Jet Airways said that the airline had already issued an apology to the Gujral and Shah. Earlier, Jet Airways' local pilots body, the National Aviators Guild (NAG), had raised concerns about the behaviour of expat pilots with the airline.
Last week, the NAG had said that the carrier was treating Indian pilots in a "step-motherly" manner as compared to their expat counterparts. Demanding swift action against the expat pilots' alleged racist behaviour, 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 code of conduct that applies to all employees.
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