In December, Bhopal MP Pragya Singh Thakur delayed a SpiceJet flight for 45 minutes after refusing the airline’s request to change seats.

SpiceJet also bars comedian Kunal Kamra but no action against MP Pragya till now
news Controversy Wednesday, January 29, 2020 - 14:40

Barely one month after a viral video showed Member of Parliament and terror-accused Pragya Thakur causing a row on a SpiceJet flight over seat allotment and delaying the flight by nearly an hour, the airline decided to bar comedian Kunal Kamra from flying with until further notice. This comes after Kamra accosted RepublicTV chief Arnab Goswami on a flight of rival airline IndiGo. 

SpiceJet became the third airline to suspend comedian Kunal Kamra from flying with them, after IndiGo and AirIndia. While IndiGo suspended Kamra for a period of six months, both Air India and SpiceJet have suspended him until further notice. 

On Wednesday, GoAir also announced that it was suspending Kamra until further notice.

Controversy erupted after Kunal posted a 1.51-minute long video on Twitter, accosting Arnab, who was unresponsive throughout. “I am asking coward Arnab Goswami questions about his journalism and he is doing exactly what I expected him to do... is being a coward. First he called me mentally unstable and now he’s saying, ‘I’m watching something.’” Later he asks, “Are you a coward or are you a journalist?”

This exchange between two citizens on a private airline swiftly earned the government's attention, with Aviation Minister Hardeep Puri tweeting that offensive behaviour “designed to provoke & create disturbance inside an aircraft is absolutely unacceptable & endangers safety of air travellers,” and “advised” other airlines to impose restrictions as well.

On December 21 last year, however, passengers were left fuming when Pragya Thakur refused to move from her assigned seat, as airline rules stated that passengers on wheelchairs couldn’t be seated in an emergency row. The flight was delayed by 45 minutes due to the issue. It was during this time that she said flying first class was “her right”.

“She had pre-booked seat 1A and had come to the airport in her own wheelchair. The Delhi-Bhopal flight is operated by Bombardier Q400 aircraft (78 seater). On this aircraft, the first row is the emergency row seat and is not allocated to passengers on wheelchairs,” SpiceJet said in a statement at the time. When they asked her to shift to the second row, she refused. Passengers asked for her to be offloaded due to this. 

She eventually agreed to move, but however, lodged a complaint against SpiceJet after alighting from the flight.

While opinions on Kamra’s act may be divided, many questioned why SpiceJet was now stepping in to ban Kamra, whereas no action was taken against MP Pragya.

In September 2017, the government unveiled the rules for a passenger to be put on the no-fly list. The revised rules had three categories of unruly behavior.

“Level 1 indicates behaviour that is verbally unruly and calls for debarment upto 3 months; Level 2 indicates physical unruliness and can lead to the passenger being debarred from flying for upto 6 months and Level 3 indicates life-threatening behaviour where the debarment would be for a minimum of 2 years,” according to a release by the Civil Aviation Ministry. This has to be filed by the pilot-in-command. The matter will have to be probed by a committee of the airline within 30 days.

“During the period of pendency of the enquiry the concerned airline may impose a ban on the said passenger. For every subsequent offence, the ban will be twice the period of previous ban,” the release added.  

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