An Air India flight attendant was detained in Jeddah on Thursday for allegedly carrying gold and cash without proper documents. As a result, the Kochi-bound flight he was assigned to operate was forced to declare a door ‘non-operational’ and cut down its cargo, airline sources said.
Sources added that staff at Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport detained Chaitanya Sawant, the flight purser, at the final security checkpoint ahead of the boarding gate where a crew vehicle was waiting to take him to the aircraft.
“Minutes before the scheduled take-off, the airport ground staff told us not to wait for a flight attendant as he was detained for carrying huge amounts of cash and gold. According to the standard operating procedure, one aircraft exit was declared ‘non-operational’ and some cargo had to be offloaded,” said a cabin crew member, requesting anonymity.
The national aviation regulator’s rules state that a flight should budget for at least one flight attendant to man each aircraft exit. Security requirements stipulate that if a door is declared ‘non-operational’ because of shortage of staff, the cargo on board must be reduced.
An Air India spokesperson confirmed the incident. “We have learnt that a cabin crew staffer assigned to operate a Jeddah-Kochi flight was detained at the Jeddah airport, but the authorities have not shared details about the offence,” the spokesperson said.
This is not the first case of its kind. In February, the airport customs department at the Delhi airport had caught two AI cabin staffers allegedly smuggling 3 kg of gold worth Rs 78 lakh.
In the same month, an assistant commissioner of customs with the air intelligence unit at the Mumbai airport had warned the airline against unauthorised airport exits made by its flight crew.