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Tushar Srivastava, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, October 10, 2011
Flight delays due to bad weather, fog and technical problems are common. But when it comes to Air India (AI), reason for delays could be the most absurd. Believe it or not, an international flight of the state-owned carrier was delayed for more than an hour and forty minutes on Saturday after the co-pilot refused to fly with captain Sandeep Marwaha, who is senior to him by more than 15 years.

There was chaos inside the flight as the 169 passengers, who boarded by 9.45 am, protested even as the airline scrambled to arrange for a replacement as co-pilot, Adarsh Kumar, refused to board the aircraft. Finally, a first officer was woken up in his hotel room and asked to rush to the airport. The Calicut-Dubai flight (AI 937), scheduled to depart at 10 am, finally left at 11.40 am.

Kumar refused to fly with the captain citing an ICPA (Indian Commercial Pilots Association) directive asking its members not to fly with Marwaha, who was Officer on Special Duty to former CMD Arvind Jadhav. ICPA is an association of airline pilots.

Sources said an internal inquiry had been initiated. "Thanks to its internal politics, AI's reputation has taken yet another hit," said a company official. AI spokesperson did not respond to calls from HT.

Terming the ICPA directive "illegal", Marwaha told HT from Dubai, "Some of the ICPA boys are highly indiscipline lot. They are a cause of embarrassment to the whole community. Most of them are back door entries and have no sense of responsibility towards the company and the nation."

He hinted at a conspiracy by some ICPA members as Supriya Tripathi, a co-pilot, was originally rostered for the flight but Kumar replaced her knowing fully well who the captain was.

"He even filled the customs, immigration and general declaration forms along with me but backed out at the last minute," Marwaha said. A Bhinder, ICPA president, did not respond to calls and text messages sent to his mobile phone.