Air India pilot stuck at temple during Shivratri, delays flight by 3 hours

Another Air India flight on Tuesday from Mumbai to Delhi could not take off on time as the pilots did not turn up on time since he was deleted at a temple where he had gone for the Mahashivratri festivities, a Mumbai Mirror report said this morning.

FP Staff February 18, 2015 09:03:26 IST
Air India pilot stuck at temple during Shivratri, delays flight by 3 hours

Another Air India flight on Tuesday from Mumbai to Delhi could not take off on time as one of the pilots did not turn up on time since he was delayed at a temple where he had gone for the Mahashivratri festivities, a Mumbai Mirror report said this morning.

According to the report, the AI 887 flight was delayed by almost three hours even though the passengers had boarded the plane. While boarding occured around 9:45 am, the pilots only took their seats at 11:40 am and the plane eventually landed in Mumbai at 1:45 pm rather than the scheduled 11:15 am.

As Firstpost had reported earlier, errant cabin crew will have to face a salary deduction of Rs 500 for every five minutes of delay. By that calculation, for Tuesday's delay, the two pilots will have to shell out Rs 18,000 each.

Air India has had a dismal on-time performance record these past few months. Only 53% flights were on time in December and close to 60% in January. TOTP for February has improved significantly, to between 75-80% till now.

Air India pilot stuck at temple during Shivratri delays flight by 3 hours

Reuters image.

Meanwhile, an AI 302 was to take off for Sydney with 252 passengers at 0100 hrs (India time) on Saturday but got delayed by well over eight hours on cabin crew shortage.

This meant the passengers, many of whom were booked on the flight to watch Sunday's India-Pakistan match, were unable to reach in time. Similarly, another  flight AI-130 from London to Mumbai was diverted to Budapest after an engine malfunction, causing a delay of over 13 hours on January 23.

A source in the airline told Firstpost that if one were to look at actual numbers - AI has a little over 3000 people as designated cabin crew - and compare these with number of flights, there was really no shortage of cabin crew.

"The problem lies in inefficient rostering, crew members taking long breaks between flights especially on the Delhi-Sydeny-Melbourne route etc. If rostering is beefed up and crew is efficient, we may not need more people immediately," said the source.

But what about frequent complaints of Air India operating flights with less than minimum crew, as per DGCA specifications?

The airline is also alleged to have been compromising with 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.

"Air India, which is facing acute shortage of cabin crew, declares one door 'unserviceable' on some of its long-haul flights, which lowers the crew requirement. And it happens mainly on flights to New York and Chicago, where it operates most of its flights with 11 crew as against a requirement of 14," crew members, who requested anonymity, said in New delhi.

An airline can avail the waiver of "Unserviceable Door (USD)", permitted under the regulations by the civil aviation regulator -- Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) -- only in exceptional cases, including in flight retrievals. As a mandatory safety requirement, all doors of an aircraft have to be manned by a minimum set of cabin crew.
"But the national carrier is using it with impunity and that too, to meet the crew shortage," they alleged.

The minimum crew required for commercial operations for various types of aircraft is defined under Section 38(B) of the Aircraft Act. Any reduction in the crew number is allowed only in special cases, but definitely not from base points.
"Similarly, its Sydney flights are being operated with only seven crew as against a requirement of nine crew," they said.
When contacted, a senior Air India official denied that the carrier was taking advantage of the DGCA waiver.

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