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‘Like living room’: Air India pilot let woman friend into cockpit on flight, complains crew

By, New Delhi
Apr 21, 2023 10:13 AM IST

The complaint alleges that the captain wanted the crew to make sure the cockpit appeared welcoming before inviting his friend in.

An Air India pilot operating from Dubai to Delhi on February 27 entertained a female friend in the cockpit, violating aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) safety norms, according to a complaint by a member of the cabin crew made to the regulator and reviewed by HT.

The flight crew has been summoned to appear on Friday by DGCA for the first time since March 3, people aware of the matter told HT.(Willy Kurniawan / REUTERS)

The complaint alleges that the captain wanted the crew to make sure the cockpit appeared welcoming before inviting his friend in, and asked that she be served food served in business class.

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“Air India has constituted a committee to investigate the issues raised,” an airline official said, confirming that the airline received the crew’s complaint on March 3.

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An Air India spokesperson declined comment on the matter.

The flight crew has been summoned to appear on Friday by DGCA for the first time since March 3, people aware of the matter told HT.

According to the complaint, issues on AI 915 began even before boarding. The cabin crew waited for the pilots beyond their reporting time, then proceeded to the aircraft without meeting them.

The pilots boarded the flight along with the passengers. Then, according to the complaint, the captain asked the crew to inform him if there were vacant seats in business class as he had a friend who was travelling in economy class and he wanted her to be upgraded. The crew informed him that there weren’t.

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According to the complainant, the captain asked her to get his woman friend to the cockpit and also told her to fetch some pillows from the bunk for her comfort. She sat on the first observer seat.

“He said the cockpit should appear welcoming, warm and comfortable, as though he was preparing his living room for a lady friend. Also, to take her drinks and snacks order and serve her in the cockpit. I told him, ‘Captain, I am not comfortable serving alcohol in the cockpit’. This seems to have upset him a lot and his entire attitude changed from that moment onwards. He became very snappy and rude and from there on started treating me like a servant working exclusively for him,” the crew member said in her complaint.

According to DGCA’s Civil Aviation Regulation (CAR) : “An employee of the aircraft operator, who has the permission of the pilot-in-command (PIC) and whose duties are such that his/ her entry into the cockpit is necessary for safe operation of the aircraft can only be allowed in the cockpit provided they have done the mandatory BA tests.”

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It also specifies that only people who have completed breath analyser tests are allowed to enter the cockpit.

“The regulator is looking at the technical and safety aspects involved in the matter,” a DGCA official said, asking not to be named.

The complaint says that the woman spent over an hour in the cockpit.

“While she was inside, the crew was summoned multiple times, during the passenger service on the short Delhi- Dubai sector, to offer her business class fare food and snacks. Though it interrupted the flow of service all requests were promptly catered to,” the complaint said.

The complainant also claimed that when the passenger was inside the cockpit, she went to speak to the Captain when she noticed the pilots were not in their usual positions.

“I noticed that the first officer was sleeping reclined fully with a pillow and the pilot in charge was sitting across facing the passenger in the rear observer station to chat. The pilot in charge indicated that the first officer (co-pilot) was taking a controlled rest and sleep,” the complaint stated.

The complainant noted that both the pilots accompanied the passenger till the immigration area.

The complainant also alleged that the captain was angry with her and made sexist remarks during the return flight. She added that she believed the pilot’s behaviour required his psychiatric evaluation at an independent Air force Medical testing station through DGCA as he posed risk to passenger safety.

“We have taken serious note of the reported incident and investigations are underway. The matter is reported to the DGCA and we are cooperating with the regulator's investigation as well. We have zero tolerance in aspects related to the safety and well-being of our passengers and will take requisite action,” the airline said in an official statement.

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