Vigilance wing unearths over 160 cases where employees stole liquor, caviar from aircraft
Even as Air India struggles to survive on the back of a Rs.30,000-crore government bailout, investigations by its vigilance wing have unearthed over 160 cases where employees milked the airline by stealing liquor, caviar and other luxury goods from aircraft.
The cases, Union Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh has said in response to a question in the Lok Sabha, included a flight purser who was dismissed from service after he was apprehended with 372 mini-liquor bottles by customs at Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport.
Similarly, a catering officer was found with Rs. 20,200 worth of caviar tins that were missing from a special charter flight.
Large-scale malpractice, the Minister said, ran through the airline. Air India officials selected five-star hotels in New York, Chicago and Mumbai for cockpit crew without following the tender procedure, while bills were raised at a Delhi airport restaurant for delayed departure even though the flight was on time.
Bogus attendance, inflated bills and overtime claims were also unearthed during investigations. For instance, two senior officers were found guilty of procuring portable entertainment appliances and ground pods through a middleman, thus causing loss to the tune of $1.6 million besides a recurring cost of over Rs. 7 crore per annum for equipment which were hardly used.
Mr. Singh said even highly-paid pilots had engaged in malpractices, with several found to have been claiming allowances to which they were not entitled. In one case, a pilot was actually found to be working for another airline while continuing to draw a salary from Air India. Air India officials, the Minister said, made payments of allowances linked to time spent flying aircraft from the date their contracts began — whereas they were only certified to fly aircraft a month later.
Junior staff at Air India were not far behind in following their seniors. Air India officials, the Minister said, frequently misused their position to get their relatives and friends upgraded.