Air India pilots embarked on flights chartered by countries like Germany and the UK to repatriate their citizens stranded in India, have expressed concern over “flimsy protective gear, inadequate sanitizer and shoddy disinfection procedure”.

Two pilots’ unions- the Executive Pilots of Air India and Indian Pilots’ Guild- have written to the civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri raising questions about their safety.

“The personal protective equipment is ill-fitting and flimsy and tears easily on rescue flights. Moreover, sanitizers are not provided in sufficient quantities and disinfection processes are short of industry best practices,” the letter to the minister stated.

They further raised questions regarding the lack of medical facilities.

“The Air India Medical Services Department has been allowed to work from home. But any illness suffered by the crew or their families because of these high-risk flights is the sole responsibility of the crew,” they further said.

“Moreover, why has the airline not provided any additional medical insurance to cabin crew and pilots to cover for any COVID-19 related risks? the pilots further asked.

They said the airline, on the contrary, has issued circulars to its employees informing them, “enquires on reimbursement of bills, sick leave, fitness certificate, are considered as undesirable”.

It may be mentioned here that some of these pilots have even operated special flights to Wuhan and Rome to bring back Indians.

They have also operated flights for countries like Israel to help their citizens return home.

The pilots further alleged that they have not been paid 70 per cent of their salaries for the past three months.

“Moreover, we have been recently informed by the management of a substantial pay cut, while in the midst of the COVID-19 rescue operations,” the letter added.

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