National carrier Air India has grounded 20 cabin crew for skipping the post-flight breath analyser tests after operating two key international flights. The tests determine whether the flight crew is drunk or not.
Sources said aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), was tipped off about the AI crew skipping the mandatory test, after which, DGCA’s joint director-general Lalit Gupta wrote to the airline, directing that action be taken against the erring staff.
DGCA has made post-flight alcohol tests mandatory for crew of Indian carriers operating international flights when they land in the country. Pre-flight breath tests for alcohol are mandatory for pilots and cabin crew for domestic flights as well as international flights.
Sources said 12 flight attendants operating AI flight 126 from Chicago to Delhi did not undergo the crucial test at the Delhi airport last month. Another eight flight attendants operating AI flight 990 from Jeddah to Delhi, too, skipped the test last month.
“If the crew refuses to undergo the breath analyser tests, it is presumed that he or she is alco-positive. In most western countries, getting caught drunk is an offence, which can land the crew in jail,” aviation expert Rajji Rai said.
“We have a system in place at the Delhi airport wherein doctors conduct breath tests. The matter came to light when the DGCA wrote to us,” an AI official said.
“All 20 flight attendants have been grounded,” an AI spokesperson said.
The groundings come at a time when AI is facing a shortage of cabin crew, which has resulted in several flights getting delayed or cancelled over the last few months. HT first reported on February 23 that the airline has even started re-hiring retired air hostesses aged 58-60 to overcome the shortage.