Combating Negligence and Racism in Foreign Airlines Operating in India: An Urgent Call to Action

Combating Negligence and Racism in Foreign Airlines Operating in India: An Urgent Call to Action

As the aviation industry continues to expand globally, foreign airlines operating in India are increasingly under scrutiny for incidents of negligence and racism. These issues pose severe risks to passenger safety, dignity, and overall trust in air travel. It is imperative for these airlines to urgently address these problems, ensuring strict compliance with both Indian and international laws. This essay highlights the need for immediate action, focusing on legal frameworks, the roles of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and the Ministry of Civil Aviation, as well as relevant laws from the UK, Germany, France, the United States, and Australia designed to combat these pervasive problems.

India’s legal framework, fortified by its Constitution, explicitly prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, caste, sex, or place of birth. Despite this, incidents of racial profiling and discriminatory treatment by airline staff have been reported. Foreign airlines must urgently realign their policies with these constitutional mandates to prevent such abhorrent practices. The Ministry of Civil Aviation, in conjunction with the DGCA, plays a crucial role in enforcing anti-discrimination laws. However, enforcement alone is not enough. Foreign airlines must actively collaborate with the Ministry to develop and implement comprehensive strategies to eliminate negligence and racism from their operations.

British anti-racism laws, such as the Equality Act 2010, prohibit discrimination based on race, religion, and other protected characteristics. British airlines operating in India must ensure they fully comply with these laws, extending their anti-discrimination policies to all operations globally. Similarly, Germany’s General Equal Treatment Act (AGG) prohibits discrimination based on race, ethnic origin, and other factors. German airlines must adhere to these standards rigorously, ensuring no passenger or staff member faces discrimination. 

In France, laws like the Code of Civil Aviation and the Penal Code strictly prohibit racism and ill-treatment of individuals based on nationality, race, or religion. Despite these stringent laws, reports indicate that French airlines operating in India may still fall short. These airlines must urgently review their practices to ensure full compliance with both French and Indian standards. The United States also has robust anti-discrimination laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlaws’ discrimination based on race, colour, religion, sex, or national origin. American Airlines must ensure their global operations, including those in India, comply with these laws to prevent racial discrimination and negligence. Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act 1975 similarly prohibits racial discrimination in various sectors, including aviation. Australian airlines must align their policies and operations with these laws, ensuring no incidents of racism or negligence occur.

Workplace conduct policies are critical to defining acceptable behaviour and the severe consequences of racial discrimination and negligence. However, it is alarming that many airlines lack robust policies. Airlines must immediately implement regular training and sensitization programs to address these issues. Victims of racism and negligence often face significant hurdles in seeking justice. Foreign airlines must establish clear, accessible procedures for reporting and addressing such incidents, ensuring accountability and transparency. Legal representation can assist in navigating these cases and ensuring fair outcomes, but it is the airlines’ responsibility to provide these avenues.

The DGCA has implemented various measures to protect passenger rights. Airlines are required to address complaints of discrimination and negligence promptly. Failure to do so can result in penalties and sanctions. Foreign airlines must ensure their complaint handling processes are robust and effective. The DGCA mandates regular training for airline staff on issues of discrimination and negligence. This includes sensitization programs to help staff recognize and appropriately respond to incidents of racism. Foreign airlines must integrate these training programs into their operational procedures.

Maintaining transparency in all operations is critical. The DGCA requires airlines to provide clear information on their policies regarding passenger rights and complaint resolution mechanisms. Foreign airlines must ensure this information is readily accessible and communicated effectively to passengers, leaving no room for ambiguity. The DGCA enforces a zero-tolerance policy towards racism and negligence. Despite this, violations persist. Foreign airlines must adopt and rigorously enforce a similar zero-tolerance approach, ensuring that any breach results in immediate and severe consequences.

Proactive measures are essential to prevent negligence and racism. This includes conducting regular audits, fostering an inclusive workplace culture, and encouraging open communication. These measures are not optional but essential. Airlines must engage with stakeholders, including passengers, staff, and regulatory bodies, to understand diverse perspectives and address concerns effectively. Failure to do so can lead to severe reputational damage and legal consequences. Cultural sensitivity is critical in reducing incidents of racism. Airlines should promote cultural sensitivity among staff and encourage practices that respect diversity. This is a fundamental aspect of providing safe and respectful service.

Regular monitoring and evaluation of policies and practices can help identify areas for improvement. Airlines must establish mechanisms to track incidents of negligence and racism and take corrective actions promptly. Ignoring these issues is not an option.

Instances of seat downgrades and rude behaviour by airline staff are unacceptable and contribute to a hostile environment for passengers. Foreign airlines must implement strict policies against such practices and ensure that staff are trained to handle all passengers with respect and courtesy. The inadequate care and support for disabled passengers, including the failure to provide necessary aid for transitioning between terminals for connecting flights, is a severe form of negligence. Airlines must ensure comprehensive support systems are in place to assist disabled passengers, complying with both international standards and specific DGCA guidelines.

The rising incidents of negligence and racism in foreign airlines operating in India are deeply troubling and demand immediate action. By adhering to legal frameworks and the mandates of the DGCA and the Ministry of Civil Aviation, and by fostering a culture of inclusivity and respect, airlines can ensure fair treatment for all passengers and staff. The time for complacency is over. Implementing proactive measures, engaging with stakeholders, and maintaining transparency in operations are critical to combating these issues. As the aviation industry continues to grow, a commitment to ethical conduct and non-discrimination is essential for achieving sustainable success and building trust among diverse communities. 

Foreign airlines must consult legal experts and engage with the DGCA and the Ministry of Civil Aviation to ensure full compliance with all regulations aimed at preventing negligence and racism in the aviation sector. The safety and dignity of passengers and staff depend on it. 

In several instances where Indian passengers have reported facing racism in foreign airlines and airports. Here are a few examples from this year: 

June 2024: Incident with Lufthansa at Frankfurt Airport 

An Indian family traveling from Frankfurt to New York alleged that they were subjected to racial profiling and unnecessary questioning by airport security and Lufthansa staff. The family claimed they were held for hours and missed their connecting flight due to the discriminatory behavior of the authorities.

April 2024: Emirates Airline Incident

An Indian passenger reported being treated rudely and with suspicion by the Emirates Airline staff at Dubai International Airport. The passenger claimed that while other passengers were allowed to board smoothly, he was repeatedly questioned, and his baggage was thoroughly searched without any clear reason.

March 2024: Incident at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport

A group of Indian students faced racial discrimination at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. They were reportedly detained for an extended period and questioned aggressively by airport security, who seemed to single them out based on their nationality.

January 2024: British Airways Incident 

An Indian businessman alleged that he faced racist remarks and unprofessional behavior from British Airways staff while boarding a flight from London to Mumbai. He claimed that he was treated with disrespect and singled out for additional security checks without any justification.
These incidents reflect ongoing issues with racial discrimination and the treatment of Indian passengers in international travel contexts. While airlines and airports often strive to uphold policies against discrimination, these reports suggest a need for continued improvement in staff training and policy enforcement to ensure fair and respectful treatment of all passengers.

In June 2024: Negligence on Air France: A Blind Woman’s Ordeal

A blind Indian woman traveling to the USA via Air France experienced a distressing ordeal during her layover in Paris. Despite her family’s clear instructions for wheelchair assistance, the airline failed to provide the necessary support, forcing her to walk and use an e-vehicle at the airport. While deboarding from the e-vehicle, she fell due to staff negligence and fractured her hip.

Rushed to a local hospital that did not accept her insurance, she was informed that the medical bills would be charged to her credit card, adding financial strain to her physical injury. Air France has denied accountability for the incident, leaving her and her family frustrated and burdened with unexpected expenses.

This incident underscores the urgent need for international airlines to address and eliminate racism, harrassment and discrimination in international travel, particularly for Indian passengers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *