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British Airways Accused of Deplaning Indian Passengers Over Crying Child

A British Airways aircraft [Representational Image]

Indian Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu has directed the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, the country’s aviation regulatory body, to get a report from British Airways over an Indian bureaucrat’s allegations that his family was deboarded from a flight in the United Kingdom over his child’s crying.

“I have directed the DGCA to obtain detailed report from British Airways on the issue,” Prabhu tweeted.

The alleged incident took place when AP Pathak, a Joint Secretary-level officer in the Indian Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways, was travelling from London to Berlin on a British Airways flight (BA 8495) on July 23.

Pathak, who lodged a complaint about his ordeal to British Airways, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, and Prabhu, said that the family was subjected to “humiliation and racial behavior” by the airline crew, and made to deplane because his three-year-old child was crying. Another Indian family who offered a biscuit to the child to comfort him was also deboarded, Pathak said.

According to him, after they boarded the plane, the child felt uncomfortable with the seatbelt and started crying. Pathak’s wife then took the boy in her arms and comforted him. A male crew member then approached the family and scolded the boy, asking him to go back to his seat, news agency ANI reported.

The child got further terrified due to the stern behavior of the male crew member, and started crying inconsolably, Pathak said. “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,” he wrote in the letter to Prabhu, PTI reported.

An Indian family sitting at the back offered biscuits to the child to console him. When the aircraft started moving towards the runway, the crew member came back, shouting, “You bloody keep quiet, otherwise you would be thrown out of the window,” the report added.

The plane was then taken back to the terminal, where the same male crew member approached the two families with security personnel and their boarding passes were taken away. The customer care service manager of the airline did not give them any reasons for deplaning them, and the management did not take action against the crew despite lodging a complaint, Pathak said.

Though the other family was given tickets for a flight the next day, Pathak said they had to make their own arrangements for staying and travelling to Berlin the next day, which cost them a “very hefty amount.”

A spokesperson for the airline said a probe has been initiated into Pathak’s complaint. “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 said, according to the news agency.