Mumbai: An Air India pilot and two air hostesses were suspended after an airline probe found that the cabin crew overstayed in the cockpit on a Delhi-bound flight from Bangkok on April 12. The action came amidst reports that while the pilot took a nap in the business class, the air hostesses were left to operate the aircraft over 20 minutes, endangering the safety of 166 passengers on board.
The pilot had reportedly put the plane on auto-pilot mode and allowed the cabin crew to be in the cockpit. Airline regulator DGCA has initiated a probe to ascertain whether the pilot had left the cockpit as suggested by the reports.
Air India admitted that the air hostesses had overstayed in the cockpit but denied that the pilot had allowed them to operate the aircraft. "Based on a report that two cabin crew members were in the cockpit for a prolonged period on the said flight, the two cabin crew were called for an inquiry. As the enquiry confirmed the overstay of the cabin crew in the cockpit, administrative action was taken against them and the pilot. They have been suspended pending the final enquiry of the incident," the national carrier said in a statement.
Air India also denied that one of the cabin crew "accidentally switched off the auto-pilot mode", as alleged in the report. "It is categorically stated that at no point of time the cockpit was left unattended by the cockpit crew. During the incident, due to distraction the co-pilot had touched the auto pilot disconnect button momentarily. But the same was connected back," the statement said.
Asked about the incident, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said in Delhi that action has been taken against the pilot and the airhostesses. "Any such incident in such a sensitive sector, safety is always a big concern.. these incidents are inquired into, so that you can learn from what not to do, how to change things, how to monitor things."