NEW DELHI: Miseries of the crew operating the Moscow-bound Air India flight on Saturday which was recalled to Delhi after the airline realised that captain was corona positive, did not end even on return home. The AI pilots union has complained that rest of the crew (other than the corona positive pilot) “were made to wait the entire day without any food or refreshments…. crew were shuffled to multiple places aimlessly.”
The Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association has written to the airline management saying: “The crew were harassed by health officials at (Delhi) airport. They were being forced to be taken to a government medical facility for seven days. Only after the institutional quarantine facilities refused to accept the crew, they were allowed to go home to follow home-isolation for 14 days. Not to mention, the post flight Covid-19 testing was violated. On return, the post flight Covid-19 testing was not carried out and were not accommodated in a hotel as per the protocol.”
The health ministry had in a circular issued on March 23 said that “If a laboratory positive case of Covid-19 is found in a flight, the entire crew has to be de-rostered for minimum 14 days. The crew need to follow home-isolation during the time at their own country.”
Accordingly, ICPA has asked the management to clarify the protocol that needs to be followed by pilots when a positive case of Covid-19 is found on a domestic or Vande Bharat Mission flight. “As per home ministry order of May 5, 2020, the protocol for movement of Indian nationals stranded outside the country requires RT-PCR test for passengers. It has been brought to our notice this is not being followed…. we are operating flights under Vande Bharath Mission as a ‘national duty’ and the treatment meted to the operating crew is distasteful…. if history repeats itself we will not be in a position to operate any flights other than the essential services,” the letter says.
There is increasing disquiet among AI pilots. “Our flying allowance (which is 70% of our pay) has not been paid since March. Our salary has been unilaterally cut. When many of us leave home for flights, our neighbours or RWAs create a scene. We want to serve the nation in this tough time as has been AI’s legacy. But instead of facilitating us in doing that, all sorts of impediments are being laid in our path,” complained a senior pilot.