Senior Air India officials have allegedly been using a section of the airline’s cabin crew to sneak in goods bought from abroad without paying customs duty.
The issue came to light last week when the cabin crew of a flight from London to Mumbai, refused their superiors one such favour but were forced to do it after being threatened with dire consequences, sources in the airline revealed.
This happened at around 11.30 pm on December 22, after AI 130 landed at Mumbai. A senior official in the airline asked the crew to pick up medicines from a person at London’s Heathrow airport and hand it over to his colleagues on reaching Mumbai.
This person met the crew at the aerobridge, and directed them to hide the medicines in their pocket so as to avoid the customs scanner, and wait outside the terminal. “The crew was scared. They asked him to either declare the goods at Customs, or issue a written order,” said an airline source requesting anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
The crew then got into a heated confrontation with the person until another senior official of the national carrier intervened. “The official pulled rank and ordered the crew to do as they were told or face action,” the source added. Sensing no option, the crew sneaked out of the terminal as directed.
Air India’s spokesperson has refused to comment before January 4, saying the matter is under investigation. The incident has created unrest in a section of the airline’s cabin crew flying international routes to the West.
“This time it was medicines. Tomorrow, they might tell the crew to smuggle in anything,” said another airline source, who asked if Air India will protect a flight attendant if caught by Customs.