Continental Air Apologizes to India's Ex-President

Wednesday, July 22, 2009 Leave a Comment

Continental Airlines Inc. Wednesday apologized to India's former president, APJ Abdul Kalam, for frisking him before he boarded a flight to New York.

The apology comes a day after the country's Bureau of Civil Aviation Security filed a complaint with the local police against the Houston-based carrier for "wrongfully" frisking Mr. Kalam on April 21, in contravention to bureau rules that exempt specified VIPs from such body checks.

The bureau, which is part of the civil aviation ministry, is responsible for laying down standards of pre-embarkation security and antisabotage measures for all civilian flights in India.

The filing of the first information report by the bureau followed strong protests by lawmakers in the Parliament earlier Tuesday over the frisking of the former president.

Continental said in a statement that it has formally apologized to the former president for any "misunderstanding and/or inconvenience related to the security screening on April 21."

"Our intention was never to offend [Mr.] Kalam or the sentiments of the people of India," a spokesman for Continental said.

Mr. Kalam, a renowned nuclear scientist, was President of India from 2002 to 2007.

Separately, Praful Patel, the country's civil aviation minister, said he isn't aware of the apology tendered by Continental to Mr. Kalam.

"The steps that were required to be taken have been taken by BCAS (bureau of civil aviation security)," Mr. Patel told reporters on the sidelines of an industry conference. "This is entirely a legal process and the law will take its course."

Tuesday, Laurent Recoura, Continental's senior country director in charge of India said the frisking was done because it had to follow the rules of the Transportation Security Administration/U.S. Department of Homeland Security for all carriers flying to the U.S. from most of the countries and there isn't any exemption to the rule.

The police complaint was filed after Continental failed to respond to a show-cause notice issued by the bureau July 9, seeking an explanation within the stipulated seven days.

Continental is addressing the queries raised in the show-cause notice issued by the bureau and received by the airline July 20, the spokesman said.

The spokesman said the carrier is committed to complying with the current regulations in both India and the U.S.

"While ensuring compliance with transportation security administration and bureau of civil aviation security requirements imposed upon us, we sometimes encounter circumstances wherein the TSA and BCAS regulations are not compatible," he said. "We hope the respective government authorities resolve their differences at the earliest in order to avoid any recurrence of this situation in the future."