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Air India violates norms; carries 3 extra passengers
Published on 10 Jul. 2009 10:46 PM IST
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In these recessionary times, airlines globally are operating on half-empty seats. But Air India, which is passing through its worst ever financial crisis, is in fresh trouble for allegedly carrying extra passengers on a fully loaded flight. What adds to the irony is that the excess passengers were discovered in a probe into the aircraft’s door falling apart when it started moving while attached to an aerobridge! The Mumbai-Mangalore flight, IC 179, being operated on a 172-seater Airbus A-321, had damaged its door in Mumbai on May 5, 2009. Following this, the passengers were off-loaded and taken to their destination in another aircraft. A probe by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) into the incident has found that the aircraft had three passengers more than its seating capacity. “Of these three, one woman passenger was accommodated in the cockpit and two others on the foldable seats where cabin crew sits during take off and landing,’’ said sources. The DGCA can now take criminal action against AI for this violation. The cockpits in modern aircraft have three seats. While two are for the pilot and co-pilot, the third is called a jump seat which is usually vacant. According to Times News Network, since the process of issuing boarding passes is completely computerized, the system stops generating passes once a flight is full. In this case, however, the probe has found that boarding passes were allegedly issued manually to enable the extra passengers to clear the different levels of pre-embarkation security checks. What’s giving the airline sleepless nights is the fact that the DGCA has taken an exceptionally grave view of this `illegality’. “We have been asked to take action against the commercial department employees who were instrumental in issuing the boarding passes. Five names have been identified in the probe and we have been asked to act against them. Failing this, the DGCA has threatened to file a criminal case against Air India under the Aircraft Rules,’’ said a rattled senior airline employee. AI spokesperson J Bhargava said: “We are extending full cooperation to DGCA in this probe.’’ The airline may have a tough time defending this case as the DGCA probe has said carrying extra passengers was not only against safety procedures but also made the flight ``illegal’’. The airline has been told that in the event of a mishap, it would not have got any compensation due to this gross illegality. Passenger weight balance is kept in mind while filling a flight. Taking more passengers than the number of seats violates the basic principal of air safety. Also sending more people into an aircraft suggests that all standard operating procedures would have been violated to issue the extra boarding cards. Sources say that the DGCA probe team could not get the trim sheets that have all details of passengers on board, from the airline despite repeated attempts. “AI commercial wing has been accused of tampering with documents to obstruct investigations. This is also illegal,’’ said sources. In fact, the DGCA has told AI that its investigation could not be completed due to “the non-cooperative attitude’’ of the commercial department. The incident has clearly exposed more than just the presence of three extra passengers - it has put the airline’s operating procedures under a cloud.

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