Another set of cabin crew personnel assigned to operate an Air India (AI) flight from Riyadh to Mumbai on March 2 has alleged that the airline management threatened to get them arrested in Riyadh because they refused to operate the flight.
The crew did not operate the flight stating that they could not work in excess of the 14-hour flight duty time set by India’s aviation regulator.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is strict about following stipulated duty shifts because overworked crew might be unable to handle mid-air emergencies.
This is the second time in less than a month that Air India crew has alleged they were threatened with arrest by the airline staff at a Gulf station. On February 8, AI flight attendants were forced to operate a flight on the same route in violation of flight duty timing restrictions.
“They threatened to confiscate our passport and get us arrested but airline management is taking no cognisance of the problem,” said a crew member requesting anonymity.
About 380 city-bound passengers were stranded at Riyadh owing to the argument between the crew and the airline’s ground staff.
An airline spokesperson denied the crew’s claims. “Allegations of arrest are misleading,” he said adding that the crew was making an issue of the incident because they want a night stay at Riyadh.
The spokesperson did not explain why the flight was scheduled in a manner that it had high chances of either violation of flight duty rules or wastage of taxpayers’ money on accommodating passengers in hotel.
It takes 13:50 hours for the crew to operate this flight from Thiruvanthapuram to Mumbai with stopovers at Kochi and Riyadh. According to an agreement signed between the cabin crew union and the airline management, flight duty cannot be more than 14 hours at a stretch barring emergency situations wherein the commander has authority to extend the duty shifts by two hours.
But the March 2 flight was delayed by two hours at Riyadh owing to a tyre burst.
“We have written several letters to the management to alter the schedule because such situations might occur very often. But it had fallen to deaf ears,” said a member of the All India Cabin Crew Association (AICCA).