Two Air India flights bound for Birmingham and Sydney, the newest international destinations on the airline’s network, were delayed by close to three hours at the Delhi airport on Monday on account of poor scheduling of pilots’ duties.
The Birmingham flight failed to take off on schedule because the flying licence of one of the pilots, captain Gopal Bhalla, was lying with the aviation safety regulator pending renewal.
An AI official collected the license on Monday morning but moments before the scheduled take-off time of 1:50pm, the airline staff realised that it was neither signed nor stamped.
This resulted in a last minute hunt for another pilot while hundreds of passengers, who arrived at the airport three hours before the take-off time, were forced to wait. The flight took off finally at 4.06pm.
AI chairman and managing director Rohit Nandan blamed the safety regulator’s office for the goof-up.
“The regulator endorsed the pilot’s licence without renewing it. There was no mistake on part of the crew scheduling department,” said Nandan.
But airline sources said that with several Boeing 787 pilots available there was no need to roster captain Bhalla for this flight.
In the case of the Sydney-bound flight, two pilots had reported sick on Sunday.
However, the crew scheduling department didn’t look for an alternative cockpit crew before Monday morning. As a result, the flight missed its scheduled take-off time of 1:30pm.
It left Delhi more than two hours later.
Nandan did not comment on the Sydney flight delay.
Airlines sources said that the airline has consistently faced problems with regards to pilots on the Dreamliner fleet on account of a rivalry between the erstwhile Indian Airlines and Air India pilots.