AI cabin supervisor slaps flight attendant in enterprise class galley

MUMBAI: India might have rules in place to protect airline crew from the slaps, whacks and smacks of unruly passengers but a new problem came calling last week after a cabin supervisor slapped a onboard an flight on its way to Frankfurt from Delhi. What can a flight attendant do if their supervisor is the one who has landed a slap? Not much, because if they retaliate, the commander will divert and land the flight at the closest airport in the interest of safety.
The incident took place onboard AI flight 121 on March 17, over an hour after it departed Delhi airport at 2.20pm. “A flight attendant mistakenly served a business-class passenger non-vegetarian meal instead of a vegetarian one. The passenger, who was seated on 1D, saw it was wrong meal and pointed it out to the cabin supervisor who happened to be around,” said a source. Cabin supervisor is the person in charge of cabin crew on a flight. In this case, the supervisor also happened to be an Air India nodal officer for liaising with the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA), a post that came with power. The supervisor took up the case with the flight attendant, who on realizing her mistake rushed to the passenger, apologized profusely and replaced his meal.

Back in the galley, the supervisor was out of control. “The flight attendant said she would right away apologize to the passenger once again but the supervisor lost her temper and slapped the flight attendant,” said the source. “It was a tight slap right across her face. The business-class passengers would have heard it.”

What saved the day for Air India was that the flight attendant, though reeling under pain, did not forgo the basic “crew resource management” (CRM) lesson she was trained in—to always deescalate a conflict.

A senior cabin crew member said, “She remained calm. Had she hit back, imagine the show of fisticuffs that would have played out in the business-class galley? The flight would be diverted, passengers would suffer, the airline image would be hit. But now it’s just the case of a bad apple.” The passenger who was served the wrong meal did not lodge a complaint. The flight attendant filed a complaint with her department head. A response from AI was awaited at the time of going to press.

The incident comes close to a year after the infamous March 23 slapgate when Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad kicked, punched and abused an Air India ground staffer in Delhi, only to find himself make history as the first passenger to be ever unanimously banned by all airlines. Months later, the DGCA came up with regulations on “handling of unruly passengers”. It seems it’s time to amend it to include unruly cabin crew members as well.

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