Air India offloads business class passengers on crew shortage, delays flight

New Delhi: How would you feel if you buy business class tickets on Air India but offloaded by the airline at the last minute for no fault of yours? Well, this is what four passengers faced when they were offloaded from the AI 131 Mumbai-London flight on 5 March because the airline did not have sufficient cabin crew.

 Air India offloads business class passengers on crew shortage, delays flight

Facing cabin crew shortage. Reuters

When cabin crew is short of the mandated strength, airlines operate a flight by declaring required number of aircraft doors non-operational. But how many would offload Business Class passengers in this situation? An AI official said these passengers were later booked on a British Airways flight.

AI 131 was delayed by about an hour-and-a-half due to this fiasco. As per Rule 38 (B) of Aircraft Act, all doors on an aircraft need to be manned. For this flight, nine crew members were required but only seven were available. The AI official said one door next to the front row of Business Class and one in the Economy Class cabin was therefore declared non-operational.

There have been allegations earlier about Air India "compromising" flight safety norms by using a DGCA waiver on minimum cabin crew requirement on some of its long haul flights, a charge denied by the national carrier. These allegations pertain to much the same issue explained above: the airline declares one door 'unserviceable' on some of its long-haul flights, which lowers the crew requirement. Media reports have earlier suggested that this most often happens on flights to New York and Chicago, where it allegedly operates flights with 11 crew as against a requirement of 14. These allegations could not be confirmed from Air India.

In a written reply to Rajya Sabha today, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Mahesh Sharma admitted that 89 flights were delayed due to cabin crew between 1 December 2014 to 28 February 2015. He said this was less than 1 percent of total delays. As on 1 February, there are 2,330 regular and 779 contractual cabin crew employees in Air India. He also said a few contractual crew members are operating flights on 'secondment' basis from a subsidiary company of Air India.

So why is Air India unable to get adequate cabin crew numbers? Sharma has now decided to ask all airlines for their views on "poaching" of cabin and cockpit crew members in the industry before getting regulator DGCA to frame new anti-poaching guidelines. AI says it has begun the hiring process for crew and most will be trained and ready for duties by mid year.

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Updated Date: Mar 10, 2015 19:10:12 IST