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Coronavirus | Air India pilots flag poor protective equipment

Ground realities: Two unions representing nearly 500 pilots have raised the complaints.

Ground realities: Two unions representing nearly 500 pilots have raised the complaints.  

They have to fly flights chartered by countries such as Germany and the U.K. to repatriate their citizens stranded in India

Air India pilots have expressed their concern over “flimsy protective gear, inadequate sanitisers, shoddy disinfection procedure” and a lack of quarantine arrangements as they embark on flights chartered by countries such as Germany and the U.K. 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 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 unions represent nearly 500 pilots who operate the wide-bodied planes such as Boeing 787, 747 and 777.

The March 30 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.”

They also point out that the airline has not made any arrangements for crew members to go into a quarantine, who are then forced to join their families despite operating flights to some of the global hotspots of COVID-19.

‘Poor facilities’

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.”

While the airline has not provided any additional medical insurance to crew members to cover them for any COVID-19 related risks, it has gone a step further and recently advised its employees, “enquiries 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!”

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Printable version | May 29, 2020 8:36:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-air-india-pilots-flag-poor-protective-equipment/article31221763.ece

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