Air India today revoked its flight ban on Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad with immediate effect, two weeks after he had assaulted an airline staffer onboard a plane.
An airline spokesperson said the move follows a written order from the Ministry of Civil Aviation. Aviation sources said that with the AI revoking the ban, private airlines may follow suit. The 56-year-old Osmanabad MP had yesterday written a letter to Minister for Civil Aviation Ashok Gajapathi Raju expressing his "regrets" over the "unfortunate incident" on March 23. "I write to convey my regrets for the unfortunate incident that took place on 23rd March, 2017 in the Air India Flight No. AI-852 seat No.1F," Gaikwad had said in the letter.
The ban was lifted by Air India, hours after it thwarted an attempt by Gaikwad to book a ticket for the seventh time in the last two weeks. However, the MP, in a statement denied having made any attempt to book a flight. An airline head on the condition of anonymity said it has been agreed that police investigation will continue and the MP will give a commitment that he will show acceptable behaviour in the future.
Gaikwad had assaulted an Air India employee and had boastfully claimed on national TV about having hit him with slippers 25 times. He was banned by the airline on March 24. He, however, on Thursday played the victim card, claiming he had only retaliated when provoked.
The MP, who had attended the Lok Sabha for the first time on Thursday since the incident, had denied any "wrongdoing" on his part and instead accused Air India officials of misbehaving with him, and sought action against them, especially the airline's CMD. He struck a somewhat conciliatory note when he tendered an apology to Parliament but insisted he owed no apology to the airline officials. In his letter to the civil aviation minister, the MP had stopped short of tendering an apology to either the national carrier or the staffer concerned.
A combative Shiv Sena had on Thursday threatened to disrupt AI operations in Mumbai and Pune and forced repeated adjournment of the Lok Sabha over the issue. The party had also declared it would not attend the April 10 meeting of the NDA if the ban was not lifted.