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Air India lifts ban on MP Gaikwad; unions protest

Air India lifts ban on MP Gaikwad; unions protest
Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad, who fell afoul of domestic airlines for assaulting an Air India employee, inviting a blanket ban on his air travel, can fly again, with the national carrier on Friday lifting the restriction after he expressed regret.

In a sudden climbdown after combative Shiv Sena members disrupted Lok Sabha proceedings, the tough-talking MP from Maharashtra's Osmanabad, had written a letter to Union Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju on Thursday expressing "regret" over the "unfortunate incident".

He had also virtually given an undertaking that there would be no repeat of the unsavoury incident and sought lifting of the ban.

An Air India spokesperson said the move follows a written order from the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

The spokesperson said, "AI is committed to ensuring its employees are not assaulted or misbehaved with. We will take strong action to preserve dignity of our employees."

Aviation sources said that with the AI revoking the ban, private airlines may follow suit.

The revocation of the ban came despite two AI union of the cabin crew and pilots deprecating any move to lift the restrictions imposed on air travel of the MP before he tendered an "unconditional apology" for assaulting R Sukumar, a sexagenarian duty manager of the state-run airline.

"Unless he tenders an unconditional apology to AI employees, and undertakes in writing to abide by the Chicago and Tokyo Conventions & Rules of the Air and follow all cabin safety and public behaviour norms, we must not let him on board," said the letter from the Air India Cabin Crew Association to its Chairman and Managing Director Ashwani Lohani.

It said any decision by either the Ministry of Civil Aviation or Parliament to lift the ban will affect the morale of the employees.

"Ravindra Gaikwad is and will continue to be a risk to flight safety and flight operations and to Cabin Crew safety on board, and hence Government must think long and hard about letting him back on," the letter added.

But MP still takes train to Mumbai

Hours after Air India lifted its flight ban on him, Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad took a train back to Mumbai this evening, sources close to the lawmaker said.

Gaikwad, who was at loggerheads with the airline after he thrashed one of its officials, boarded the New Delhi-Mumbai Central Rajdhani Express as he did not receive official communication about lifting of the ban, they added.

According to a railway official, the parliamentarian boarded A1 coach (seat number 41, second AC) of the express.

"Gaikwad had booked the ticket in advance. Since he did not receive official communication regarding lifting of the travel ban, he took the train as decided earlier," a source in the know of the things told a news agency.
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