Amid the rising chorus of voices of women facing sexual harassment onboard flights, a victim shared her story facing sexual misconduct by a co-passenger sitting behind her on a recent Air Vistara flight from Delhi to Cochin.

Priya (Named changed) said she was travelling from Delhi to Cochin on Air Vistara when a passenger in the row behind her harassed and touched her inappropriately. After her arrival in Kerala, she raised the issue with the airline but they "lacked sensitivity in handling the situation," as per the victim. 

Air Vistara

Having said that, the Kerala Police came to the rescue of the victim on her arrival and offered her support while the airlines showed a lack of sensitivity towards the victim. 

"The ground staff made me stand and walk around with the harasser": Victim 

On reaching out to the victim, who shared her ordeal and the lack of promptness shown by the airlines she said, "The airlines did respond to me right away. They did agree to take us to the police. They just didn't know how to go about it and left me standing with my harasser."

"The airline did cooperate in helping me file a complaint with the police. The air hostess responded urgently and sensitively to the issue. It was the ground staff person who made me stand with and walk around with the harasser which was insensitive and callous."

On speaking about taking action against the accused, the victim said, "No I have formally withdrawn the complaint yesterday. I am meeting my family after 1.5 years and only have limited leave which I didn't want to spend running from police to Courts. He issued an apology to me and his employer was informed (he's a nurse)."

The official statement by Air Vistara

The official spokesperson of Air Vistara issued a statement in this regard, "We are deeply concerned about the security of all our passengers and have strict SOPs in place against sexual harassment. All our teams across our domestic as well as international network are well equipped and trained to address such situations. In this case too, our teams followed the SOPs."

"Our team extended full support to the aggrieved customer and handed the case over to the local police. We continue to review the process based on feedback, as necessary. We are also in touch with the passenger to extend any further assistance, as needed."

"Passenger sitting behind me harassed me, touched me": Victim shares ordeal 

"Yesterday, I flew out of Delhi for a long due visit to family but ended up making an unexpected stop at the police station. The story starts with my afternoon flight from Delhi- Cochin on@airvistara

Over the three hour flight, the *sshole in the row behind me harassed me by touching me inappropriately several times. He was brazen enough to do this so openly that I was able to make a video of his actions.

I raised a ruckus. To their credit, the air hostesses responded with urgency & sensitivity. Since I we'd already landed by then, they told me that the ground will help me take criminal action against my harasser. This is when things started going downhill. 

What followed was one of the most harrowing hours of my life. The ground staff didn't have a clue as to what to do and was constantly on the phone or ignoring me when I enquired as to next steps.

After multiple calls, he finally figured out that he had to bring me & the harasser to the police. Through the entire time-A WHOLE HOUR-I was made to walk with or stand right next to the man who'd harassed me & continued to emotionally torture me until the cops finally got there.

I don't particularly blame the staff- he didn't know better, he clearly didn't have a clue as to what is to be done in this situation, had obviously not been trained or sensitized in this regard."

Why don't you have sensitive protocols around this?: Victims questions airlines protocols 

Sexual harassment on flights is extremely common- just google it. It shocks me that an airline like@airvistara doesn't have a sensitive and effective protocol to deal with this.

Airlines and airports need to take this far more seriously than they do now. If it isn't already, dealing urgently, effectively and sensitively to a sexual harassment incident should be part of their training and protocols- including for on-ground staff.

A victim shouldn't have to stand around with the very man who harassed her while the staff figure out what needs to be done.@DGCA @airvistara On the other hand, I was very pleasantly surprised by the sensitivity and supported offered to me by@TheKeralaPolice. 

Air Vistara flouts own protocols against unruly behaviour

Vistara airlines
Vistara airlineseconomictimes

What do you do if your cry against sexual harassment midair falls on deaf ears? Several questions have frequently been raised in the past by several woman passengers on a flight. So what exactly are the protocols being followed by the airlines in this regard?

"Such unruly behaviour which is offensive in nature and can result in legal action being initiated against culprits, which can include the filing of an F.I.R with the Police Authority," as per the Air Vistara protocols on their official website

"Physically abusive behaviour, which can include pushing, kicking, hitting, grabbing or inappropriate touching or sexual harassment etc. towards a member of the crew or other passengers." 

Refusal of Embarkation for Unruly passengers:

(a) Passengers travelling on our flights are required to note that the acts listed below fall under the category of unruly behaviour. Such acts are offensive in nature and can result in legal action being initiated against culprits, which can include the filing of an F.I.R with the Police Authority.

(b) Apart from the aforementioned legal action, in accordance with the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) dated 08.09.2017, Section -3, Series M, Part VI, Issue II, an airline is empowered to bar/ ban an unruly guest from traveling on their flights. Click here for the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) document for handling of Unruly Passengers.

(c) Acts listed under the category of unruly behaviour:

i. Consuming alcoholic beverages or narcotic substances, resulting in unruly behaviour.

ii. Smoking in an aircraft.

iii. Disregarding the instructions of the pilot-in-command or crew.

iv. Acting in an unruly manner by:

- Using threatening or abusive language towards a member of the crew or other passengers.

- Behaving in a physically threatening, abusive and disorderly manner towards a member of the crew or other passengers;

- Intentionally interfering with the performance of the duties of a crew member.

v. Endangering the safety of an aircraft and persons therein.

vi. Unruly behaviour (physical gestures, verbal harassment, unruly inebriation etc.) towards a member of the crew or other passengers.

vii. Physically abusive behaviour, which can include pushing, kicking, hitting, grabbing or inappropriate touching or sexual harassment etc. towards a member of the crew or other passengers.

viii. Life-threatening behaviour, which can include damage to aircraft operating systems, physical violence such as choking, eye gouging, murderous assault, attempted or actual breach of the flight crew compartment.

(The above acts are indicative and not exhaustive)

(d) TSAL, basis the customer's conduct inflight or at the Airport, reserves the right to prohibit a customer from flying Vistara, till such time it may deem fit.

(Note: The story has been edited/amended to include the response of the airline at their request and to further reflect the request of the victim.)