Some airlines get undeserved bad reputations. You might imagine that Air India is not quite as bad as some people make out and be tempted to book a ticket. If so, the following might interest you.
An Air India Airbus A320 was flying from Bangkok to New Delhi. After take-off, the First Officer, Ravindra Nath, excused himself from the flight deck and went to sleep in the Business Class cabin. A few minutes later, the Captain, B.K. Soni, called a couple of cabin staff and instructed them on how to keep watch on the controls. He then left them in charge and went to join his colleague to sleep in Business Class. Unfortunately, someone accidentally touched the controls and the auto-pilot was switched off so the pilots had to be called back to take over. It is said that the two pilots were out of the flight deck for between 20 and 40 minutes, though Air India insist that “at no time was the cockpit left unattended by the flight crew” which does not appear to tally with the cabin crew’s version of events.
The story only came out because one of the cabin crew was concerned and complained to the Indian safety authorities.
Every airline has a few bad apples and rules will be broken on occasions. What is remarkable about this case is that two pilots should think that it was even remotely acceptable for them to behave in this way. One can only assume that this was not the first time the individuals had left the cockpit in the control of cabin staff and that other pilots in the airline do something similar.
The Indian Civil Aviation Safety Council is blaming the government’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation for its “lackadaisical” supervision of airlines which has led to an increase in accidents and safety violations.
Something looks to be very seriously wrong with Air India and the safety supervision of the Indian government.