My view: Irresponsible HT reporting gives credibility to frivolous Air India incident report?

When it comes to airlines, Air India seems to always be at the receiving end. A fear of saying anything leaves the corporate communications department uncommunicative, making the national carrier the target of speculation.

Add to this, naive at best, slip-shod at worst, reporting in the mainstream Indian media, many a time lacking the most basic of common sense, and you have aviation professionals and enthusiasts cringing, shaking their heads and perpetually rolling their eyes.

On Friday came yet another example of “non-thinking” reporting needlessly magnifying what appears to be a case of malicious incident reporting by an Air India cabin crew.

The Hindustan Times (HT) published a story alleging a Boeing 787 Dreamliner of Air India on flight AI348 from New Delhi to Shanghai on September 7th suffered an incident of extreme turbulence which was covered up by the flight commander. The HT report seems to rely on a complaint by an unnamed member of the cabin crew says [bsu_quote cite=”Hindustan Times” url=””]. . . . . the captain of an Air India flight allegedly threatened his co-pilot and cabin crew from reporting an incident of air turbulence that seriously injured several passengers and damaged the plane.[/bsu_quote] The report quotes the complaint
[bsu_quote cite=”Hindustan Times” url=””]“I was one of the cabin crew on AI flight 348. We were in the middle of service when there was a massive jolt. It felt as if the aircraft had gone out of control. The passengers and cabin crew were thrown in the air and fell on the floor. Some of them were badly injured,” the complaint said.[/bsu_quote] The Hindustan Times is a prestigious national newspaper, especially so in the capital New Delhi. The paper’s story being published, and probably not wanting to take chances on a “complaint” from the unnamed crew member India’s civil aviation regulator the DGCA ordered a probe in to the incident. (India is in a downgraded status by the United States Federal Aviation Administration).

The briefest application of common-sense and examination of technical issues would have shown the paper the sheer frivolity of the complaint.

Common sense

If there were “severe injuries” to several passengers as claimed, medical treatment would have been given both on-board the aircraft and as soon as the aircraft landed. All this would automatically mandate a reporting and investigation of the incident.

In today’s globally connected world, there is no way an injured passenger would not have promptly intimated this incident to his friends and the world by social media. The story would be out in 15 minutes, let alone the 15 days from when the incident allegedly occurred till it was reported by HT.

I cannot comprehend why no one at the newspaper applied this basic logic to determine whether this story was even genuine.


I am not an aircraft structural engineer, but every aircraft, the Dreamliner included, is subjected to severe static and dynamic tests to cause stresses to the wing and wing-box area many times greater than the aircraft is ever likely to encounter to in the flutter test, even in the most severe turbulence. In the flutter test the Dreamliner is dived down to the speed of sound and then levelled off as a means of checking the aircraft stability in high stress situations. Yes, as a precaution airlines do check the aircraft after an incident of extreme turbulence; but this is done after a genuine incident.

Similarly, I am not fully aware of operational rules, but I assume if the first-aid kit on board an aircraft is used for treatment, then reports would be generated to ensure it is properly replenished. Again these reports too will require reasons why the kit was used.

These basic points should have alerted even the most novice of people let alone experienced and professional journalists. What is shocking is that this same newspaper ran a nationwide campaign advertising “responsible journalism”.

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Naturally, the DGCA found no evidence of significant turbulence on the flight and closed the “incident”.

I cannot help but think at the effort, time, and other resources spent investigating what is surely a malicious complaint made by some cabin crew member, who obviously has an axe to grind. Share your thoughts on what you feel should be done to this anonymous crew member for the frivolous report?

And if you would like to share your reactions with the newspaper and the reporter requesting for more care in the future, tweet them at @httweets and @tushar_yes or you can post a comment here.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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  1. Shameful but thats just our media. Air India is desperately trying to manage its troubles and it is definitely not in a position to face such image tarnishing reports.

  2. Typical of journalists, both electronic & print, to sensationalize. In the bargain the general public gets “over-educated”.

  3. It all smells of politics.. Otherwise which ‘airline official’ would give credence to such a frivolous report by a cabin crew allowing the image of the airline to be tarnished on the front page of a leading newspaper?
    We need more responsible/knowledgeable people like you in charge of our aviation coverage.
    Hopefully this guy Tushar would have learnt a lesson…