DGCA slaps Rs 80 lakh penalty on Air India for flight duty norm violations

This is at least the third time in less than two months that Air India has been fined by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation

Representative image of Air India aircraft (photo: IANS)
Representative image of Air India aircraft (photo: IANS)


Aviation regulator DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) on Friday, 22 March, imposed an Rs 80 lakh penalty on Air India for violations of flight duty and fatigue management norms, including failure to provide adequate rest to flight crew before and after ultra-long haul flights.

This is at least the third time in less than two months that Tata Group-owned Air India has been fined by the DGCA.

The latest penalty also comes at a time when the DGCA has decided not to extend the 1 June deadline for implementing the revised flight duty norms that will provide more rest hours for pilots.

In January, the watchdog conducted a spot audit of Air India to verify the airline's compliance with Flight Duty Time Limitations (FDTL) and Fatigue Management System (FMS) regulations. During the audit, evidence was collected and fleet-wise random reports were analysed.

"The analysis of reports and evidence revealed that Air India Limited operated flight(s) with both flight crew aged above 60 years flying together in a few instances.

"...the operator was also found deficient in providing adequate weekly rest, adequate rest before & after ultra-long range flights and adequate rest on layover to the flight crew, which violates the extant provisions of the Civil Aviation Requirements pertaining to FDTL," the regulator said in a release.

Generally, ultra-long-haul flights are those having a duration of more than 16 hours. Air India operates such flights to destinations in Canada and the US.

Further, the DGCA on Friday said there were instances of exceeding duty periods, wrongly marked training records and overlapping duties.

On 1 March, the watchdog issued a show cause notice to Air India with respect to the violations.

"The operator submitted its response to the show cause notice which was not found satisfactory. Pursuant to the non-satisfactory response submitted by the operator, a fine of Rs 80,00,000 has been imposed on the operator," the release said.

Having both cockpit crew members or pilots aged above 60 years in a flight violates Rule (2) of Rule 28 A of the Aircraft Rules, 1937.

"No person holding a pilot's licence issued under these rules and having attained the age of sixty years shall act as pilot-in-command or co-pilot of an aircraft engaged in commercial air transport operations unless it is operated in a multi-crew environment and the other pilot is less than sixty years of age," as per the rule.

Earlier in March, the DGCA said it would not be extending the 1 June deadline for implementing the revised flight duty norms for pilots.

The Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA), comprising Air India, SpiceJet and IndiGo, had written at least twice to the regulator, seeking more time for implementation of the revised Flight Duty Time Limitations (FDTL) norms issued on 8 January.

The new norms, to come into force from 1 June, provide for rest time for pilots and seek to alleviate pilot fatigue.

In a recent communication to the FIA, the DGCA said that airlines have to take all necessary steps to roll out the revised FDTL CAR, with effect from 1 June, 2024.

"The CAR (Civil Aviation Requirement) provisions may appear either restrictive or liberal, depending on its direct impact on the viewing entity, and differing perceptions may be formed when viewed from the eyes of either the airline operators or the pilots.

"While perceptions may vary, DGCA is primarily concerned in ensuring safe operations and practices that are best suited to the unique operating environment prevailing in India," the DGCA had said.

In less than two months, the DGCA has imposed fines on Air India thrice, including the latest action.

On 29 February, the regulator DGCA slapped a fine of Rs 30 lakh on Air India for the incident where an 80-year-old passenger collapsed and later died after walking from the plane to the terminal at the Mumbai airport after not getting a wheelchair.

Prior to that, the DGCA, on 24 January, imposed a penalty of Rs 1.10 crore on Air India for safety violations with respect to operations of its leased Boeing 777 planes to the US.

On 17 January, the watchdog slapped a fine of Rs 30 lakh each on Air India and SpiceJet for lapses in rostering of pilots for operating flights in low visibility conditions.

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