Flight Ban On Kunal Kamra Justified? Let’s Hear From The Pilot Who Was On Board

For the past few days, stand up comedian Kunal Kamra has been in the headlines, due to the travel ban imposed on him, by prominent airline companies, such as Indigo Airlines, Air India and Spice Jet.

The initial suspension was issued by Indigo on 28th January, after Kamra allegedly ‘heckled’ Republic TV Managing Director, and Editor-in-Chief, Arnab Goswami, aboard one of its planes from Mumbai to Lucknow.

The airline Tweeted their decision saying “In light of the recent incident on board 6E 5317 from Mumbai to Lucknow, we wish to inform that we are suspending Mr Kunal Kamra from flying with IndiGo for a period of six months, as his conduct onboard was unacceptable behaviour.”  They further issued notice to all other passengers, to refrain from indulging in any such activity, that might lead to such a decision.

Indigo’s Tweet and Kunal Kamra’s response.

In a video, Kamra calls Arnab Goswami a ‘coward Journalist’:

Following Indigo’s move, Air India, SpiceJet and GoAir announced that they have banned stand-up comedian Kamra from using their services as well.

Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said: “This was not a normal case. It left me with no choice. It could have led to a scuffle on board and endangered security. It doesn’t matter whether it is Arnab or XYZ; a zero tolerance policy will apply universally and will be ideology and politics neutral. The message had to go out that such behaviour is unacceptable.”

So, was this the right step? Did the argument really amount to an offence, to be dealt with via such a ban? Well, let’s hear from the Captain of 6E5317 Mumbai-Lucknow, the flight on which the entire incident took place.

As a response to the ban, Captain Rohit Mateti has de facto claimed that the rules were circumvented to announce the quick ban on Kamra. The pilot also questioned whether norms were legible based on the profile of the passengers.

His letter clearly indicates that the decision was taken under the strong influence of ‘authority’ and too quickly. Here is an excerpt from his letter, which he wrote to the Indigo management, asking why he was not consulted about the Airline’s decision to ban Kamra.

“As captain of 6E5317 Mumbai-Lucknow flight on January 28, I do not find…events reportable in any way. Mr. Kamra’s behaviour, while unsavoury, was not qualifying of a level 1 unruly passenger. Indeed, we pilots can all attest to incidents similar and/or worse in nature that were not deemed unruly,” the captain said in his email to the airline’s management.

Furthermore, I was disheartened to learn that my airline has taken action in this case solely on the basis of social media posts, with no consultation whatsoever with the pilot in command. This is somewhat unprecedented in my nine years of airline flying. Moving forward, am I to understand that the bar for interpretation of a disruptive passenger is lower/different when it comes to high profile cases?… I would like a clarification from the airline as this leaves a lot of room for ambiguity.”

This is Indigo’s response, as per ANI: “We have taken cognizance of the letter of the pilot, who was operating the flight on which Kunal Kamra and Arnab Goswami were traveling. We have received the relevant statements and the internal committee has initiated the investigation regarding this incident.”

What should we call this ban? A person who has always been critical of the government and, now, a ‘highly partial’ journalist, has been banned from flying on major airlines. Has a precedent been set to stop dissent at any possible cost?

Why wasn’t Pragya Thakur booked under the same rule, when she created a ruckus on a Spice Jet flight, where she was not willing to do as requested by the cabin crew?

In this case, was the involvement of the Union Ministry really required? Do they pay so much attention to every flight argument?  The answer is simple: NO.

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