Under fire from the civil aviation ministry for frequent flight delays, Air India (AI) has now begun keeping a track of its pilots calling in sick.
On July 29, the airline management sent doctors and security personnel to a senior pilot’s house in Delhi after the latter refused to operate a Hong Kong-bound flight (AI 310) citing an illness. As a result, more than 200 passengers booked to travel on the flight scheduled to leave the capital at 11.15pm were stranded at the Indira Gandhi International airport for about 90 minutes.
“The pilot scheduled to operate the flight had called in sick because he has hurt his foot. But the airline management sent doctors to his house at 12 midnight to check whether it was a bluff,” said an airline source requesting anonymity.
On the same day, seven other Dreamliner fleet pilots on rest were called to operate the flight as a contingency measure but all of them turned down the request. As a result, the airline has issued show-cause notices to them.
“This is a result of poor scheduling by the airline. Why should be a pilot on rest be available to operate a flight at any given time?” said a senior Airbus commander. The AI spokesperson did not respond to HT’s calls and an email about the incident.
Nearly four of the 10 domestic flights operated by the national carrier in and out of Mumbai in June were delayed making it the airline with the second poorest on-time performance last month.
Data from the civil aviation ministry also showed that of 51,000-off domestic fliers affected by flight delays exceeding 2 hours more than 30,000 were AI passengers.