Pilots unhappy over resuming flights to Kabul

Pilots want Air India to stop flights to Kabul after missile attack on a Malaysia Airlines flight added a new dimension

Updated - April 22, 2016 01:56 am IST

Published - July 20, 2014 12:41 am IST - NEW DELHI/MUMBAI:

Despite assurances from Afghan authorities, pilots both serving and retired unanimously want Air India to immediately stop flights to Kabul after the missile attack on a Malaysia Airlines flight added a new dimension.

“We hear there is political pressure or compulsion to operate flights (to Kabul) which is wrong. The DGCA should immediately ban all flights to Kabul which has come under repeated rocket attacks. Air India cannot put the lives of passengers and crew at risk,” said Captain (retd) R.S. Rosha, former director Inflight Service and Operations, Indian Airlines.

“What are we going to prove? There should not be any compromise on safety. All flights must stop. Those very keen to go there must take to the road,” a serving pilot said asking not to be named.

“In aviation we don’t take 0.001 per cent chance. Though such incidents are very rare, nothing can be left to chance. Air India should immediately stop all flight operations to Kabul,” said Capt. Rosha.

“If the Government insists, then the pilots must refuse to operate flights. The matter ends there. I think pilot unions should issue directives to members not to fly into conflict zones,” said Capt (Retd.) Girish Kaushik, a veteran pilot who had once led a week-long strike at Jet Airways.

Clarity on resuming flights to Kabul is expected on Monday when the Director General of Civil Aviation and the Air India brass return from Moscow. But, official sources reiterated that there was no pressure and Indian military flights were landing at Kabul.

Flights have been suspended since Thursday following an attack on Kabul airport.

The two Indian airlines – Spice Jet and Air India — are yet to resume flights despite assurances from Afghan authorities that the airport is safe.

Sources also said Afghan authorities had assured them about enhanced security measures at the Kabul airport that include surveillance on all high rise buildings overlooking the airport, increased patrolling and more mock exercises.

Civilian flights are the mainstay of India’s links with Kabul, especially because Pakistan denies direct access to Afghanistan. The other route into Afghanistan via Iran is still in the making. Flights from India into Kabul, besides bringing businessmen and reconstruction officials, are also a vote of confidence for the Afghan Government, which is battling the Taliban.

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