Passengers booked on Air India’s Jeddah-Mumbai flight on Friday had to suffer for three hours, as four members of the cabin crew refused to board the flight citing inadequate provision of rest hours. The flight, scheduled to leave at 2115 hours, left only at 0015 hours after the crew rested for 22 hours, the duration they deemed fit.
Sources in Air India confirming the development said that AI 932 — a Boeing 777-300 aircraft —is required to be serviced by 12 cabin crew members. “While eight members reported on time, four said they would board only after being rested. You need at least 11 members to operate the aircraft. The commander could not take off at the scheduled time,” a senior AI executive told The Indian Express. The flight scheduled to arrive Mumbai at 4.50 am could only land around 7.50 am on Friday morning.
As per Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) norms, airlines need to rest flight crew for 22 hours for long-haul international flights. For flights less than six hours, rest period should equal twice the flight duration.
Another source in the airline added, “The problem has intensified in last two weeks. There have been repeated face-offs between management and some crew members because of the misinterpretation of rules. Flights are getting held up almost every day.”
He informed the situation peaked on April 30 when commander of the flight, Captain R Saran was forced to leave behind a flight attendant, Mayank Sharma, in Jeddah as he refused to report for duty without resting for 22 hours. AI 966 on Jeddah-Hyderabad-Mumbai sector took off with 11 crew members after the commander declared a door inoperative.
“Mayank Sharma was operating the flight on April 29 from India (Calicut-Jeddah), after having been given pre-flight rest as mandated by DGCA rules. The entire cabin crew, comprising 12 members, were thereafter being given more time to rest. They were scheduled to fly back from Jeddah on April 30. Sharma demanded 22 hours of rest before operating the flight back to India. Cabin crew are entitled to this 22-hour rest only when they are operating international flights out of India and at Indian stations. Whilst at outstations, other rules govern the rest, as twice the flying time of the preceding sectors of that day”, he said.
Senior executives said more heads may roll in next few days if flights are habitually delayed. The executive quoted earlier informed, “Secretary, civil aviation is monitoring Air India’s on-time performance on a daily basis. We have been directed to deduct pay in the first instance. Charge-sheets would be issued subsequently. If the problem persists we would terminate services of those responsible for holding up flights.”