Air India’s international fleet cabin crew has alleged that the country’s aviation safety regulator is compromising passenger safety by diluting flight duty rules for pilots, including extending shifts and allowing crew numbers below the permissible limit.
The All India Cabin Crew Association (AICCA) on October 18 served a notice to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), a copy of which is available with HT, saying it has amended the flight duty rules framed by it to suit operational requirements of AI.
The union claimed that the DGCA did not take any action against flight duty violations by the AI management, despite repeated complaints.
The AICCA said the alteration in rules could compromise passenger safety and endanger lives. “Safety rules are framed to curb crew fatigue. If the regulator itself turns a blind eye towards violations, we are waiting for a disaster to happen,” said a member of the association who did not wish to be named.
The notice lists several alleged safety violations by the national carrier, which were reported from time to time through 33 letters and emails to the DGCA, but no action was taken.
For instance, junior DGCA officials allegedly reduced the in-flight rest time for the crew from five hours to four hours. When the matter was reported to the DGCA chief, it was found that a middle-level officer had permitted this amendment to suit the AI’s operational requirement, without the approval of the DGCA chief. Similarly, though the provision of bunk beds for crew on ultra long-haul flights (flights with duration of more than 10 hours) was mandatory, the airline stopped providing this service to crew operating the Boeing777-300ER aircraft.
Again, no action was taken despite repeated complaints, the notice alleges.
The AICCA also claimed that while the minimum crew requirement for on long haul flights is 16, the DGCA failed to take action against the airline for operating with a smaller crew.
According to the notice, 95% of AI’s international flights are operated with minimum crew, which has led to fatigue.