Air In­dia faces $8.8 mil­lion fine for de­lay in flight

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DEBT-RID­DEN Air In­dia may have to pay up $8.8 mil­lion in penalty to 323 pas­sen­gers aboard its Delhi-Chicago flight on May 9, which faced a de­lay of over 22 hours due to a change in the crew’s duty hour rules.

The state-run car­rier, which is in the process of get­ting pri­va­tised, landed the hefty fine as the Delhi High Court had di­rected the DGCA to not per­mit vari­a­tions in the crew’s flight duty time lim­i­ta­tion (FDTL).

The mat­ter came to the fore as Air In­dia and the Fed­er­a­tion of In­dian Air­lines (FIA) in a plea to the Delhi High Court on May 15 sought the mod­i­fi­ca­tion of its April 18 direc­tion to DGCA. FIA rep­re­sents pri­vate car­ri­ers Jet Air­ways, IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir.

Flight AI 127 was bound for Chicago on May 9 with a sched­uled fly­ing time of 16 hours. How­ever, it could not land on time due to in­clement weather and in­stead was di­verted to nearby Mil­wau­kee.

The sched­uled flight du­ra­tion from Mil­wau­kee to Chicago is 19 min­utes.

The flight, car­ry­ing pas­sen­gers who had al­ready trav­elled for 16 hours, could have taken off in two hours and reached Chicago.

How­ever, the crew’s duty hour rules, af­ter the with­drawal of the re­lax­ation of duty hours by DGCA fol­low­ing a high court or­der, al­lowed only one land­ing for the crew that day.

Air In­dia, left with no choice, had to ar­range for a fresh crew trans­ported by road to Mil­wau­kee to take charge of the flight, sources said.

The flight left for Chicago af­ter a de­lay of over six hours. The pas­sen­gers re­mained in the air­craft for the en­tire du­ra­tion, invit­ing a penalty for the air­line for 'tar­mac de­lay'.

Ac­cord­ing to the US guide­lines, if pas­sen­gers are on board for more than four hours in a grounded flight headed for an in­ter­na­tional des­ti­na­tion, the car­rier is guilty of 'tar­mac de­lay'.

The po­ten­tial penalty to the car­rier in such a case is $27,500 per pas­sen­ger on­board. With 323 pas­sen­gers on­board, Air In­dia has piled up $8.8 mil­lion in penalty, sources said.

The court has sought the stands of the Cen­tre and avi­a­tion reg­u­la­tor DGCA on the plea.

Among the 323 pas­sen­gers aboard the flight, 41 were wheelchair-bound and two were in­fants.

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