NEW DELHI: An Air India pilot who retired from the airline about a month back passed away Friday night and the cause is suspected to be coronavirus.
Meanwhile, two pilots of Vistara have tested positive.
An airline official said: “The captain, 58, had retired in April-end and has not flown in AI after that. We spoke to his family and they are saying it was not Covid although the building (where the pilot lives) people are calling it corona,” said an AI official.
The senior captain was from erstwhile Indian Airlines who operated the Airbus A320. During his career he had served as flight operation inspector in the DGCA also.
His demise has raised concern within the airline as a significant number of pilots and cabin crew are grappling with coronavirus. “We have 3-4 symptomatic; 30-40 asymptomatic cases and 150 quarantined pilots and cabin crew members. In all about 200 of our crew members are either covid positive or quarantined after after passenger/s on the flight they operated tested positive,” said an official. Worryingly, the curve is steepening in recent times.
AI pilots are very agitated as while they risk their lives to operate Vande Bharat flights — the only international flights to and from India at the moment as schedule services are suspended — the airline is not even paying them salary. The flying allowance (which accounts for over 70% of total pay) is due for March, April and May and the basic of May is yet to be paid.
In the last two days, the pilots have been holding meeting with AI management on the issue of pay. The aviation ministry has asked the management to get the pilots to be paid as per actual flying hours.
“When we leave our homes to operate flights, many of us face troubles from our RWAs or neighbours. We risk our lives for performing a service for the nation by flying stranded Indians from foreign countries home. On top of that the ministry and the management is showing no concern for us. No one even knows when and if we will be paid,” said a senior pilot.
About the Vistara cases, an airline spokesperson said: “Two of our pilots on returning to duty tested positive for COVID-19 after undergoing some Flight Simulator training, unfortunately. As part of our contact tracing efforts, we immediately placed all the direct and secondary contacts on home-quarantine. We had sent some of the pilots who were in direct contact with these two pilots for RT-PCR testing. So far, the results for some of the pilots have been found negative while others are still pending. The Simulator Training Centre has been duly informed to carry out the necessary sanitisation, disinfection and other laid down guidelines as stipulated by the authorities. Vistara is extending all possible support to the two infected pilots and continues to make every effort for health and safety of its staff and customers that they serve.”