Saturday, May 15, 2021

No RT-PCR report: 4 SpiceJet pilots spend almost a day inside aircraft in Croatia before flying back to Delhi

New Delhi: Four SpiceJet pilots had to reportedly spend almost a day onboard the aircraft they operated from Delhi to Croatian capital Zagreb this Tuesday before flying the Boeing 737 back home. The reason: SpiceJet did not make them undergo the mandatory pre-flight RT-PCR test.

Since they landed in Croatia without the negative report, they were not allowed to get off the aircraft there. The two commanders and as many first officers had to spend their layover inside the aircraft in Zagreb before flying the plane back to Delhi without any passengers or cargo. SpiceJet says the crew was on board for 21 hours.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has “admonished” the airline for this lapse.

A SpiceJet official said: “Prior to departure from India, e-mail confirmation was received from Croatian authorities that RT-PCR is not required for crew. On arrival in Zagreb, crew was told that orders have changed. Due to sudden and massive increase in Covid cases in India, they have now been instructed that RT-PCR is required. This came as a surprise (to us).”

“Since crew could not fly back immediately due to flight duty time limitation restrictions, bedding, food and water was provided in the aircraft and the plane was cleaned. DGCA permission was obtained. Crew rested in aircraft for 21 hours (as mandated by regulation). They then flew back to Delhi. All crew confirmed that they were comfortable and happy with the arrangements,” the SpiceJet official said.

SpiceJet had operated flight SG-9035 on May 11 on Delhi-Tbilisi-Zagreb with two sets of pilots, meaning four pilots. As the crew had not undergone the mandatory RT-PCR test, Croatian authorities did not allow them to alight from the aircraft, said people in the know.

However, since the mandatory rest between operating two flights for crew int his case was not in a suitable environment as mandated by rules, SpiceJet then sought DGCA clearance to operate this aircraft in special conditions for mitigating this issue. Both the sets of pilots (a captain and a co-pilot making one set) operated the aircraft from Zagreb to Delhi. At all times, three pilots remained inside the cockpit. The regulator asked the airline to operate the aircraft from Zagreb without any passengers or crew, said sources.

15/05/21 Saurabh Sinha/Times of India

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