Delhi-Pune flyers wait for pilot for 2 hours in aircraft

  • | Friday | 29th September, 2023

PUNE: Over 100 passengers of an Air India flight from Delhi to Pune were on Monday evening allegedly made to sit in the aircraft for almost two hours after boarding in the absence of the pilot.The flight (AI853) was scheduled to take off from Delhi at 7.10pm and land in the city at 9.10pm. But according to flyers and Flightradar24, the aircraft took off from the national capital around 9pm and landed in Pune around 11pm.TOI sought detailed comment from Air India (AI) on the issue early on Tuesday morning. But a reply from the airline to multiple emails and WhatsApp messages was awaited till going to press despite continuous follow-ups.The same New Delhi-Pune flight was delayed on Tuesday also. Its flyers were a tad fortunate, as they were kept waiting in the airport terminal building. Saiprasad Sale, booked in the flight, said, The airlines staffers kept delaying things, citing operational reasons. When some passengers confronted the ground staffers around 10pm, they said no pi- lot was available and hence, the delay. The pilots finally arrived at 10.35pm and the flight will take off at 11.15pm now.Worse was the experience of Zohair Qadri, one of the flyers of AIs New Delhi-Pune flight on Monday. Qadri wrote on X, We are sitting in the aircraft for over an hour. The pilot (on duty) has exceeded legal hours. Does this happen in AI too?Another flyer, requesting anonymity, said, We had boarded the aircraft by 7pm. The crew didnt tell us anything. There were infants and senior citizens in the aircraft.Neeraj Shukla, another flyer, wrote, We have been kept inside the plane for more than an hour because the pilot was not on time. It was a suffocating environment.Replying to yet another fly- er who had complained about the same, Air India wrote on X on Monday, Sorry for the delay. AI853 is delayed due to operational reasons and should depart anytime soon.A source in the know of flight operations and rostering of pilots said, Various reasons, ranging from sudden illness, fatigue to personal emergencies, could impact the last-minute availability of pilots. In this instance, the pilot was not available as his duty time was over.He said, Airlines have a system in place to monitor the duty time of pilots. They normally have crew on standby and replace the pilot whose duty time is over without affecting the flights schedule. But a replacement may take time if apilot with licence to fly the particular aircraft and meeting all other DGCA parameters is not available at the last minute.Another source highlighted the current pilot shortage in India. Not just the ability of aircraft, airlines must take into account the availability of flying crew while preparing schedules to avoid inconvenience to passengers, he said.

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