A senior government bureaucrat alleged “racial discrimination” and “rude behaviour” by British Airways, which offloaded him and his family from a flight last month because his three-year-old son was crying, prompting Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu to seek a detailed report into the incident.
The family was travelling on a BA flight to Berlin from London on July 23 when the incident reportedly took place.
“I have directed the Directorate General of Civil Aviation to obtain a detailed report from British Airways on the issue,” the minister tweeted.
The DGCA is the aviation watchdog in the country.
The bureaucrat, in a letter to Prabhu on August 3, alleged that another Indian family, sitting behind them, was also offloaded as they offered biscuits to the child to console him.
The bureaucrat alleged that the crew got the plane (BA 8495) to return to the tarmac, where the security personnel took their boarding passes away. The customer care service manager did not give reasons for offloading them nor did the management take action against the crew despite lodging a complaint, he claimed.
“We had to make our own arrangements for staying and travelling to Berlin the next day by paying a very hefty amount,” he said, adding that the other Indian family was given tickets for a flight the next day, without any accommodation though.
The bureaucrat is a joint secretary-level officer in the ministry of road transport and highways.
Asked about the issue, ministry of external affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, “We will have to see at what level and in what circumstances this has to be taken up.”
When contacted, a British Airways spokesperson said, “We take such claims very seriously and do not tolerate discrimination of any kind. We have started a full investigation and are in contact with the customer.”
The spokesperson later said, “It is a safety requirement for all airlines that passengers are seated and have their seat belt fastened for take-off.”
Narrating his family’s ordeal in the two-page letter to Prabhu, the officer demanded a thorough investigation and strictest possible action against the British Airways staff.
He said while his wife managed to calm their son, an “aggrieved” crew member approached them and started scolding the boy, asking him to get back to his seat. The boy had a window seat, but the mother had taken him into her arms to console him.
“With this unusual behaviour of the male crew member, my son got terrified and started crying intensively. My wife again put the boy on his designated seat and fastened the seat-belt, even though he kept on crying intensively being in a terrified state of mind due to the scolding by the male crew member,” the officer wrote.
He alleged that when the plane started moving towards the runway, the crew member came back, shouting, “You bloody keep quiet, otherwise you would be thrown out of the window.”