The violent assault of a man onboard a Bangkok-India flight, a video of which has gone viral, started after the passenger refused to follow the cabin crew's safety instructions, the airlines has said.
In an incident report accessed by NDTV, Thai Smile Airways has stated that the assault took place on December 26 before the Kolkata-bound flight took off from Thailand.
The crew asked passengers to adjust their seats to the upright position for take-off -- a standard safety procedure also followed on domestic flights. One of the passengers, the report said, refused to adjust his seat, saying he has a backache.
The crew, the report said, repeatedly requested the passenger and also explained to him the rationale behind adjusting the seat during take-off and landing. They told him that in the case of an emergency, a reclined seat can make evacuation difficult. Also, a reclined seat can make it difficult for the passenger to get into the bracing position recommended for emergency landings.
Despite the repeated requests, the passenger did not comply and remained seated with his seat reclined. He was also told that the crew would be forced to inform the captain if he did not follow the rules. The passenger, the report said, told the crew that they are free to tell the captain but he would not adjust his seat. Soon, other fliers started complaining about the passenger. One of them got into an argument with him that soon escalated into an assault.
The video shows several passengers ganging up to thrash the passenger who had refused to adjust his seat. The passenger does not hit back and is seen trying to defend himself as the crew and others on the flight try to stop the assault.
The airlines' report said take-off was delayed after the captain was informed about the incident. As soon as the violence stopped, the crew ensured that the passengers involved returned to their seats and the aircraft left for Kolkata.
The airlines has said in its report that no passenger received any serious injury in the incident. It added that none of the fliers involved were served alcoholic drinks on the flight. There was no other disturbance for the remainder of the journey, the report said. The report further stated that two passengers, who were spotted shooting videos of the assault, were requested to delete them.
The crew's response to the assault raises serious questions regarding the safety of passengers. Despite the full-blown violence, none of the passengers involved were deboarded and the flight continued on its journey. The report is also silent on whether the crew had a response plan if a fight broke out again after take-off.
After the video of the assault went viral. many on social media said those involved must be put on a no-fly list. The Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, which monitors aviation security, has taken note of the incident. "We've taken note of the viral video, which shows a fight between passengers on a Thai Airways flight to Kolkata," said Zulfiquar Hasan, director general of the bureau, adding that they have sought a detailed report from the authority concerned. Further action, he said, will be taken on the basis of the report.