In a further attempt at damage control, Tata Sons Chairman N Chandrasekaran said on Sunday that Air India and the Tata Group would review and repair all processes in the airline to prevent and address all incidents of an unruly nature in the future.

Referring to an incident on a New York-New Delhi Air India flight on November 26, when a drunk male passenger urinated on a 70-plus female co-passenger, the Tata Sons chief said it had been “a matter of personal anguish to me and my colleagues at Air India.”

He admitted that the airline’s response should have been much swifter. “We fell short of addressing this situation the way it should have been.”

When the senior citizen brought the incident to the notice of the flight crew, she said it took them some hours to provide her with another seat, and though there were several vacant seats in the first class section, she was accommodated in a narrow seat meant for the cabin crew. In her complaint, she also alleged that she was forced to confront the perpetrator against her wishes and listen to his apologies.

“The Tata Group and Air India stand by the safety and well-being of our passengers and crew with full conviction,” Chandrasekaran said in the statement. His response comes a day after the carrier’s Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Campbell Wilson, released a detailed statement, again expressing regret over the incident and the measures being taken by the airline to prevent a recurrence of such incidents in the future and a better way of handling them.

Matter of pride

For the Tata Group, it has been a matter of pride to get back the airline, originally set up by JRD Tata in 1932, into its fold. They won the bid to purchase the debt-laden and loss-making airline for ₹18,000 crore in 2021. They have their work cut out for them to make the airline profitable, with its bloated workforce and freebies that have been eroding its cashflows. In 2021–22, it reported a loss of over ₹9,500 crore.

Last November the Tatas announced the merger of Air India with another airline in the group, Vistara, which is a joint venture with Singapore Airlines.

Recent incidents of unruly passengers on board and the airline crew’s casual handling of them have tarnished the image of the airline, drawing considerable flak on social media.