NUTS: Air India Captain Who Oversees Flight Safety Allegedly Fails Breathalyzer

Filed Under: Air India

I’d like to think that most airlines take safety very seriously. Unfortunately I can’t say that I get that vibe from Air India. There are stories about the completely unacceptable things their pilots do all the time, and it seems like management does little to punish them.

For example, in 2015 I wrote about how an Air India captain was caught showing up to work drunk for the third time (and who knows how many times he showed up drunk and wasn’t caught).

At the time this got a lot of bad press, so Air India was forced to act. Their solution? That they would start “heavily punishing” pilots who are caught drunk… but only starting with the second incident.

Now there’s an incident that’s even more unbelievable, as reported by Reuters.

A senior Air India captain wasn’t allowed to operate a flight today from Delhi to London after he failed two breathalyzer tests.

That’s bad enough. Even worse? This captain, Arvind Kathpalia, is also on the board of the airline, and is director of operations for Air India, which means he has the responsibility for overseeing flight safety and training.

Kathpalia says he will be contesting the results because they were “related to internal feuding within the state-owned company.” He said:

“It was 1:30 in the afternoon, only a bloody stark raving alcoholic is bloody drunk at 1:30 in the afternoon. I am going to contest this.”

This isn’t the first time he has been in a situation like this. In January 2017 he was suspended for three months for refusing to take breathalyzer tests before and after his flights. And somehow he still got promoted to director of operations after that. Here’s a news story about that incident at the time:

At least that’s one side of the story. The other side of the story is that Kathpalia claims this is all a setup, and that he’s under attack because he is an employee of “the original Air India,” while the union is from Indian Airlines, and the two airlines merged in 2007. He said:

“There is a lot of animosity after the merger. The animosity exists till today. They refuse to acknowledge each other.”

So yeah, the accusations are pretty serious here. Given the stories we hear from Air India I wouldn’t be surprised if the accusations are true. At the same time, the airline is also known for quite a bit of corruption, so I don’t think it’s completely inconceivable that these tests have somehow been tampered with.

So yeah, I’m not sure what to believe here. Is it more likely that there’s just gross incompetence and a lack safety culture at Air India, or corruption? What a situation…

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

  1. You should hear about the Sriwijaya Air 737 whose passengers deboarded because of the unbearable stench coming from the 2 tonnes worth of Durian the airline was transporting

  2. Of course, if I were him and innocent I would have insisted on bringing in immediately an independant doctor to test. So, I dunno.

    Either way that airline is a mess.

  3. Sorry stuart don’t BS. Innocent people just share their calendars. They don’t want/need an independent investigation.

    Unless of course there are different rules for white Republican male scum and rest of the population.

  4. While I do acknowledge the culture of corruption within Air India and state owned enterprises anywhere in the world in general, I find it quite hard to swallow that an airline overlooking safety can operate safely for many decades without a single major incident that’s their fault. The last accident that you can blame the airline for that had fatalities was in 1982. Most of their incidents in their history have either been pilot error and/or terrorist attacks among other system failures. They’ve only had 2 crashes in the jet age that you could pin on the airline directly. Even their most recent crash, IX-812 operated by Air India Express was a result of the captain’s unconventional actions, for the most part, rather than aircraft failure. You have to give them some props for running an airline that’s still more legitimate than many others on the planet.

  5. Seems as if this is very common in the airline industry. Why wouldn’t it be? Humans are humans. Wasn’t there a similar incident involving a senior ANA Captain a few days ago?

  6. A retired flight attendant after 30 years. I can attest there is a lot of drinking involved. When I first started the flight attendants on the last leg of the day would sit in the galley and drink. Not so much more today. Layovers are a party zone for crew. It’s an industry that has one of the highest rates of addiction, along with the medical field, police. It’s really difficult to understand that he could refuse a breathalyzer and still be employed. If I had refused one at my airline I would immediately be terminated. Wow just wow

  7. Not AI related, but I lost my cherry to a FA at the age of 17, and she drank like a fish. She told me everyone at her airline enjoyed regular benders.

  8. No issues – A generous helping of Vindaloo curry and the pilot is sober within minutes.

    If what Mr. Kathpalia is true that he is ‘under attack’, he better refrain from his favorite tipple until he reaches his destination. Teachers should know better …

  9. Commentaries from the ignoramuses have commenced.

    @Lucky – love your blog, but I wonder if the crass language and the infantile comments by some users lower its quality and reputation.

  10. I feel ashamed to admit that my crew, including the pilots, and I used to carry banana bags to administer IV fluids after a night of partying to enable us to fly within regulations the morning of. This was when I worked as a young FA on a major European airline. At the time, the severity of my actions were not evident. Luckily no one was hurt.

  11. @Peter Brown
    Maybe next time you might use your peanut sized brain and not make such an offensive comment. Please think before you speak.

  12. “Hey, this Lucky does seem to make sense. I watched the news videos agAin.
    The positive reading they are making such a hoo hah about is 0.007
    Limits elsewhere in the world are 0.020 or 0.015
    Sounds so ridiculous. Looks like they were really after his butt. Too bad even the management didn’t support him. Shows what Indian beauracracy is all about.
    Anyway, every one in the airline industry knows the feud & stinking politics within Air India after the merger.

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