Air India pilot union and Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) has written to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for a temporary stay on the requirement to conduct the pre-flight Breath Analyser (BA) Test in the wake of the Covid-19 situation.
The request by commercial pilots comes in the backdrop of an unprecedented rise in Covid-19 cases in India.
Last year on March 29 aviation regulator DGCA had temporarily suspended the breath analyser test for “all aviation personnel” with respect to all aviation personnel as required under the Civil Aviation Requirements at all airports. It was later resumed as Covid-19 cases came down.
In September 2020, aviation regulator the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had ordered airlines to resume pre-flight alcohol tests for pilots and cabin crew members.
Earlier, the aviation regulator had on March 29, 2020 suspended breath analyser (BA) test for “all aviation personnel” like pilots, cabin crew members, ground handling staff and air traffic controllers due to the “extraordinary” circumstances posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and given the directions issued by the high courts in Delhi and Kerala.
“In partial modification of the DGCA order… dated 29.03.2020, this is to convey that the employer/organization shall ensure flight crew member and the cabin crew member shall undergo pre-flight BA test,” said the regulator in an order dated September 4.
Pilots for Bringing Back Temporary Stay
Breath analyser tests have continued to remain suspended for aviation personnel other than pilots and cabin crew members. Given the increase in the number of cases being reported, the ICPA called for a for a temporary stay on the requirement to conduct the pre-flight Breath analyser (BA) Test with immediate effect.
All pilots are required to undergo mandatory breathalyser tests before and after a flight to ensure he or she is not under the influence of alcohol or has not consumed alcohol in the 12 hours prior to reporting for duty. In the past, the association has even resorted to legal recourse against pilots who failed to follow this mandate.
However, since COVID-19 primarily spreads through respiratory droplets when one coughs, sneezes or even speaks, these tests have become a source of concern for flight crews.
Growing Cases, Food Service Restrictions
On Monday, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) issued an office memorandum to state that there will be no meals service on flights below 2 hours of flying time.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) in an Office Memorandum issued by joint secretary Usha Padhee to update existing guidelines said that airlines, operating flights on domestic sectors may provide meals services on board, where in the flight duration in two hours or more, following the emended guidelines issued by the ministry.
As per the new rules, airlines may serve pre-packed snacks, meals, pre-packed beverages as the policy of the airlines, where the duration is two hours or more.
Conditions Laid Down by MoCA
- That in all classes, tray set-up, plates and cutlery will be completely disposable with no re-use or cleaned or disinfected rotables will be used.
- Used disposable trays, crockeries, cutleries shall not be re-used. Used rotables shall be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before reuse.
- In all classes, tea, coffee, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage services will be in disposable cans, containers, bottles, glasses. There will be no pouring service and beverages will be served in single use disposable units.
- All used disposable and rotable meal trays, plates, cutlery, beverages, bottles, cans, glasses will be disposed off in the trash bags, carts by the crew at the end of the meal service.
- The passengers would be informed of the above practices for strict compliance before the start of catering services by way of passenger announcements.
- The servicing of inflight meals to be staggered among the adjacent seats as far as possible.