Air India pilots have expressed concern over “flimsy protective gear, inadequate sanitisers, shoddy disinfection procedure” as they embark on flights chartered by countries like Germany and the UK to repatriate their citizens stranded in India due to the nationwide lockdown over COVID-19.

Two pilots’ unions, the Executive Pilots of Air India and Indian Pilots’ Guild, have written to the Minister of State for Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri raising questions about their safety as they continue to work on the front line during a pandemic.

The letter states that the personal protective equipment is “ill-fitting and flimsy and tears easily on rescue flights, sanitisers are not provided in sufficient quantities and disinfection processes are short of industry best practices”.

The pilots have also raised questions about the lack of medical facilities as the Air India Medical Services Department has been allowed to work from home, which the cockpit crew say implies, “that any illness suffered by the crew or their families because of these high-risk flights is the sole responsibility of the crew.”

The have also asked why the airline has not provided any additional medical insurance to cabin crew and pilots to cover them for any COVID-19 related risks. On the contrary, the airline has issued circulars to its employees informing them, “enquires on reimbursement of bills, sick leave, fitness certificate, are considered as undesirable”.

While some of these pilots have operated special flights to Wuhan and Rome to bring back Indians and have operated flights for countries like Israel to help their citizens return home, they have not been paid 70% of their salaries for the past three months and “have also recently been informed by our management of a substantial pay cut, while in the midst of the above mentioned COVID rescue operations!”

News Source: The Hindu


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