- Sena MP hit Air India staff member with sandal, brags "I did it 25 times"
- Was upset about no business class seat, though plane was all-economy
- Airlines say he cannot fly with them, Air India cancels return ticket
Mr Gaikwad, displaying no remorse over hitting the Air India staff member so badly that his spectacles broke, told reporters yesterday, "I hit him 25 times with my slipper."
The member of parliament from Osmanabad in Maharashtra was livid that he had not been given a business class seat on the flight from Pune to Delhi. Except that the plane was all-economy, a fact that had been conveyed to the politician's office in advance. To ensure VIP treatment, he was seated in the front row.
That was not good enough. When the plane landed, Mr Gaikwad refused to leave the plane. When Duty Manager Sukumar Raman arrived in the cabin to persuade him to end his protest, the politician turned violent.
"God save our country if this is the culture of our politicans and MPs," the Air India employee wrote in his complaint.
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has sought a report to determine the facts before he decides on what happens next for Mr Gaikwad. The party said that it does not tolerate violence.
In Delhi, Junior Law Minister PP Chaudhary said, "There is no law that bars anyone from travelling anywhere or denying a ticket. If someone has committed a crime, he can be punished but denying a ticket is seriously wrong."
Mr Gaikwad today said that Air India is guilty of "poor service" and that the manager who he thrashed should apologize to him and not the other way around. He also said he intends to fly, as scheduled, on Air India back to Pune today.
A statement by the Federation of Indian Airlines demanded "strict action be taken against the Member of Parliament by law enforcement agencies...We believe that an assault on any one of our employees is an assault on all of us and on ordinary law abiding citizens of our country who work hard to earn a living."
The airlines have also called for the collation of a list of passengers with a history of "unruly" behaviour and say they need the support of the government and enforcement agencies to enforce the "no-fly" list.