An Air India (AI) flight from Jeddah to Delhi on March 6, left without 200 passengers booked to travel on it because they cut short the boarding time to ensure that the crew’s duty shift did not expire.
Worse, in the hurry to clear the flight for take-off the airline’s ground staff failed to load baggage of many passengers and informed them only after the flight reached the capital.
The matter came to light on Monday after the All India Cabin Crew Association (AICCA), the AI cabin crew union, reported the incident to the airline management. The complaint stated that the AICCA said the airline had been poorly scheduling flights on Gulf routes, which had led to violation of duty timing rules or waste of revenue in accommodating passengers in hotels.
The Jeddah-Delhi flight had originated from Mumbai (AI391) and was operated between March 5 and March 6. The duration of the journey was 14 hours, which is the maximum duty time permitted by the aviation safety regulator. “A delay of even 15 minutes results in violation of duty timings restrictions,” said a cabin crew personnel, requesting anonymity.
Although flight number AI391 was delayed out of Mumbai owing to slow immigration clearance and boarding of passengers, there were no arrangements made in Jeddah to expedite the boarding process.
The flight reached Jeddah 30 minutes late and to ensure that the crew’s permitted duty shift did not expire before the flight reached Delhi, the commander of the flight extended the work shift by 30 minutes. As the airline could board only 200 passengers in the short time available it left another 200 stranded at the airport.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has laid down flight duty timing restrictions for pilots and cabin crew personnel because an overworked crew might failed to handle passengers during an emergency.
An AI spokesperson did not respond to HT’s queries over email or text messages. This is the third time in a month that the AI crew union has complained against poor scheduling of flights on Gulf routes.