Air India flight crew, operating rescue flights, have complained about the quality of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) provided to them. Air India has operated a number of evacuation flights, including from hotspots such as Wuhan and Milan, to repatriate citizens. What are the complaints of the staff and how has the airline responded to them?
Complaints about protective equipment provided
In a letter to the Minister of Civil Aviation, a group of Air India pilots who’ve flown rescue missions have complained of the quality of protective equipment given to them. The pilots say the PPE issued was ill-fitting, substandard and easily tore or disintegrated during the flight. Additionally, crew were not provided with enough sanitizers and the disinfection process of the aircraft did not meet industry standards.
These complaints highlight the significant risk flight crews take while operating these rescue missions. Without proper protective equipment, the chance of contracting the virus is exponentially higher for the flight crew, especially when flying out of affected cities like Milan.
Air India has also requested people be kinder to flight crews in view of their high-risk jobs that are essential to helping Indians, highlighting that all crew are provided with hazmat suits and regular check-ups.
Lack of protection for staff
The letter also highlights the lack of protection crews have in case they do contract the virus. No additional insurance coverage has been provided and there are no established testing and treatment protocols for staff. The pilots have requested access to 24/7 healthcare facilities for themselves and their families along with better coordination between various health departments.
Air India has also failed to pay full salaries since January, another issue highlighted by the pilots. Pilots have written that their flying allowances, which make up 70% of their pay, remain unpaid since January. Air India has also reduced salaries for flight crews, angering pilots who are actively risking their health and struggling to make ends meet.
What is Air India’s response to all this?
Air India has denied all the claims and says it provides the highest quality PPE and follows industry standards for aircraft disinfection. However, since Air India operates rescue flights, the carrier must have the highest levels of sanitation. Without proper cleaning, passengers and crew on the next flights are at risk of contracting the virus.
The airline has also added that all crews on international flights are in mandatory home isolation. However, the BBC has reported that some crew are being asked to come in just seven days after a flight. This means Air India might be putting customers and staff at risk by not following the quarantine procedures.
Even in light of all this, pilots are still willing to fly essential flights and only want their issues addressed. This news comes as more airline staff worldwide are demanding protective gear for flying on risky flights that may expose them to the virus. These claims will likely draw scrutiny to Air India’s procedures in these precarious times and highlight the need for more government aid.