Meanwhile, airline sources alleged that officials tried to manipulate the employee’s report data in the scheduling system.(HT)
Meanwhile, airline sources alleged that officials tried to manipulate the employee’s report data in the scheduling system.(HT)

Air India Express crew member flew despite testing positive

A senior member of Air India Express’s cabin crew was on duty despite the airlines being aware that she tested positive for Covid-19 around 50 minutes before the employee’s flight, it has been found. The airline, while admitting that the employee had tested positive, said it will investigate the matter further.
By Neha LM Tripathi, Mumbai
UPDATED ON DEC 06, 2020 05:09 AM IST

A senior member of Air India Express’s cabin crew was on duty despite the airlines being aware that she tested positive for Covid-19 around 50 minutes before the employee’s flight, it has been found. The airline, while admitting that the employee had tested positive, said it will investigate the matter further.

The 44-year-old woman employee had undergone an RT-PCR test on November 12, the report for which was received before the scheduled flight from Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport. The crew member’s report and her schedule for Friday, November 13, accessed by HT, per showed that the employee even operated on the same sector and returned to her base station (Delhi) [via the return flight]. Although the 44-year-old was quarantined from the next day, the airline allowed her to operate the entire day on November 13. India is already facing issues with Dubai and Hong Kong after passengers from India tested Covid-19 positive after landing there.

An Air India Express spokesperson said, “The said flight was a Delhi-Madurai flight, for which a pre-flight RT-PCR test is not mandatory. The head crew member was to operate the international sector the next day and hence had taken the test. However, she was quarantined from November 14 onwards and no other fellow crew members when tested were found infected. We will, however, surely investigate the matter.” The spokesperson, however, did not confirm if the infected employee was symptomatic or not.

Meanwhile, airline sources alleged that officials tried to manipulate the employee’s report data in the scheduling system. “The system no longer showed that this senior employee had undergone the RT-PCR test on November 12, which meant that there would have been no (of the conducted test) on-record proof, if the test report wasn’t accessed. Tampering already logged in data is illegal.”

A top official with one of the leading airlines said, “It’s true that a crew member can operate few domestic flights until his/her test reports are awaited. This is done in order to avoid a situation of crew shortage for airlines. But, it is completely unacceptable that an airline got the crew member tested only two days before her international flight (as per the statement by the airline, the crew had to operate an international flight on November 14) and also goes ahead, allowing her to operate flights even when she is confirmed to be Covid-19 positive.”

Vipul Saxena, aviation expert, said “This is a blatant violation of safety norms and Covid-19 protocol and the head of flight safety must be made responsible. Crew schedule planning definitely has a provision for such a last-moment change. A detailed inquiry must be initiated to check the symptoms of the head crew member and also whether she was forced to take the flight.”

Earlier, the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA) had suspended Air India Express flights between India and Dubai on October 2, which was withdrawn the same evening. The suspension notice was issued after a passenger on a Jaipur-Dubai flight was found to be Covid-19 positive. Air India Express had submitted an apology to DCAA before getting the notice and the airline and the ministry of civil aviation (MoCA) had to hold discussions with Dubai authorities, following which the suspension order was lifted.

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