Air India faces $8.8 million fine for delay in flight
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.