Singapore Unhappy After Indian Airline Doesn’t Follow COVID Rules

Immigration authorities in Singapore are not happy with an Indian carrier allowing a previously COVID-infected cabin crew member on a flight before completing a mandatory isolation period. The incident took place yesterday, and the crew member was detained at Changi Airport upon arrival.

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A cabin crew member of an Indian carrier was detained in Singapore for breaching COVID protocol. Photo: Getty Images

COVID protocol breached

According to a report by the Times of India, a cabin crew member of an Indian airline was detained at Singapore’s Changi Airport for not following the required COVID guidelines. Without naming any names, the report suggests that the carrier in question is a leading airline in the country.

The detained individual had tested positive for COVID not so long ago but had not completed the required two weeks of mandatory home isolation. TOI quotes a person familiar with the matter as saying,

“A cabin crew member had tested positive on December 31st, 2021. He reported back to work this Sunday (January 9th). He was rostered on a flight departing for Singapore on Tuesday and landed there on Wednesday. On arrival, authorities at Changi Airport detained him as he had not completed 14 days of home isolation.”

Singapore’s immigration department has objected to this lapse and could impose a fine on the individual or the airline. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has been informed of the incident and is looking into the matter.

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The crew member in question landed at Changi Airport on Wednesday. Photo: Getty Images

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India’s COVID surge pushes traffic down

The dramatic surge in COVID infections in India is starting to take a toll on flight operations. Over the last few days, dozens of crew members across all airlines in the country have reported being sick.

After observing the government guidelines for Omicron management, the DGCA has relaxed the rules for crew members joining back after an infection. Those who are asymptomatic can resume work after seven days of isolation, while those with mild symptoms can come back after 14 days.

Looking at the trajectory of new infections, many airlines have scaled back operations and are even allowing passengers free modifications to their bookings. IndiGo, Air India, and Vistara have announced that they are waiving flight date change fees for travel up to March 31st this year.

The current COVID wave has also significantly impacted domestic air traffic. Unlike other countries, airlines in India had a much better Christmas period, with domestic traffic reaching almost 400,000 across 2,804 flights on December 26th. But the latest data released by the aviation ministry for January 11th shows a nearly 50% drop in traffic with around 190,000 passengers across 2,061 flights.

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Indian airlines, like those around the world, are now reporting dozens of employees calling in sick. Photo: Getty Images

New infections affecting airline employees across the globe

From Europe to the US, airlines are now dealing with significant staff shortages due to employees calling in sick by the dozens. Finnair announced a reduction of 20% of its flight schedule in February as more and more employees are reporting being infected.

US carriers are grappling with a similar situation, with new outbreaks resulting in thousands of flights being canceled. United Airlines reported 3,000 of its employees testing positive for COVID and a reduction of near-term schedules to ensure there’s enough staffing and resources to take care of customers. In Latin America, LATAM and Grupo Aeromexico, too, have been forced to cancel flights as crew members increasingly test positive.

What are your views on the latest COVID wave rocking the aviation sector? Do share your comments below.