NEW DELHI: Air India has asked its pilots and cabin crew to “check and reconfirm” their pre-flight corona test result before operating Vande Bharat flights.
The order comes after an oversight by the team checking these reports of crew members had mistakenly read a captain’s positive report as negative and released him for a ferry Delhi-Moscow flight(meaning with no passengers) to Moscow on Saturday. Once this inadvertent mistake was realised, the aircraft was recalled to Delhi from over Uzbekistan. The DGCA is probing this lapse.
“The Covid-19 test is being conducted by the airline at a substantial cost, with considerable effort. As it is a recent procedure and there is a shortage of staff in office, there is a possibility of an oversight in this matter. The test is primarily designed to mitigate the risk of transmission among the crew. Every effort will be made by the personnel dealing with the testing and rostering of crew to ensure, that the reports are checked before crew are being rostered for a flight,” says a circular issued by AI executive director (operations) Captain R S Sandhu.
It adds, “However, it is imperative that the individual crew member also checks and reconfirms his/her test result. In case of any oversight in this matter, not only are there avoidable adverse operational issues, tarnishing of image of the airline, but also irresponsible exposure of a fellow crew member to this disease. Therefore, it is mandatory for every individual crew member to check and confirm a negative report result, before undertaking a flight. Any laxity in this matter will be dealt with severity.”
The stress level is building up amid AI employees, especially the flying crew who are yet to get their flying allowance since March 2020. This component comprises about 70% of their total pay. AI has been operating hundreds of flights under Vande Bharat Mission. The government has made it mandatory for crew to be tested for corona before being allowed to operate these flights.
“With pay backlog and an uncertain future, we are operating these flights as a ‘national duty’. It takes three months to start a new station (meaning start operating flights to a new city). Here we have flown or are preparing to go to nine new cities (including distant ones like Auckland and Vancouver) in a week. We are working under tremendous work pressure and unprecedented uncertainty. The fact that we are doing so with pay due for three months now only adds to the pressure. This is our condition,” say AI pilots while describing the mental state of the airline’s staffers.