Air India Pilot Shows Up Drunk… For The Third Time

Filed Under: Air India

If nothing else, Air India is a goldmine for stories when it comes to the actions of their staff. Some of it is perhaps overblown since the media loves picking on Air India, though at the same time I’m sure it’s not without merit.

In the latest saga, an Air India captain showed up drunk to operate a flight… for the third time.

Via Hindustan Times:

In a huge embarrassment for Air India (AI), a senior commander was caught drunk by security officials at the Sharjah airport minutes before he was to operate an international flight back home on Saturday.

Sources said this was the third time that the pilot tested positive for alcohol before operating a flight.

The captain, who was reeking of liquor, was caught at the security checkpoint of the Sharjah airport while being frisked by officials along with other passengers.

The security officials informed their seniors and the pilot was taken away.

AI said it had suspended the pilot.

“The captain was not fit to fly. We arranged another pilot to operate the Sharajah-Cochin-Delhi flight. The pilot has been detained for questioning. He was smelling of liquor. An inquiry is on,” said an AI spokesperson.

The story was confirmed by an Air India spokesperson, if nothing else, so there’s clearly merit to it.

The worst part? This guy was apparently up for promotion to be an instructor:

AI sources said the pilot’s name, along with two others, had recently been recommended to be considered for the instructor’s (the senior most pilot in the airline) position in the airline.

Oh, Air India!

Seriously, how screwed up does your airline have to be so that you can show up drunk to a flight three times, and still aren’t fired?!


  1. This airline is a mess and for the life of me, I can’t imagine what Star Alliance was thinking in letting them join.

  2. And this is the ones that get caught and reported.

    It’s basically a private airline for Indian politicans and bureaucrats having cost the Indian taxpayer $10 billion and counting in a country where 800 million people live in a dollar a day

    The AI Union does not permit firing an employee and in any case the strength of unions in India and political realities result in no meaningful action will be taken

    You could not pay me enough to fly this airline

  3. @Marcus Your ignorance really shines through your that thick skull of yours. It would be a gross and massive overestimation that 800 million people live on 1$ a day when India has some of the world’s richest people.Of course there are people who live in Abject poverty, but it is not as much as you think. Yes, Air India has problems and I admit it. However this does not give you a free pass to humiliate a country which is trying its best to grow after decades of mismanaged politics. For the record, I am not Indian.

  4. @Potato – I think you might want to check your own skull. India may indeed have some of the richest people in the world. That does not make the other statement untrue. What makes it untrue is that the World Bank estimates 276 million people in India live below $1.25/day. So…yay? Does that make it all better?

  5. The interesting part to this story is that the pilot came from the UAE where it’s sometimes difficult to get a drink. You can’t easily buy alcohol on the street; so did he get it at a bar at the layover hotel, or did he buy duty free on the way in (pre-meditation?).

    Air India isn’t that bad. I can imagine far worse carriers. From experiences flying them in April, they are very “proud” to be members of Star Alliance.

  6. Lucky,
    I’ve seen enough posts ridiculing Air India. It’s a bad airline, it’s mismanaged, with poor products, and nobody wants to fly it. Everybody knows it. But is it really necessary to kick it even more when it’s down? Enough already.

  7. @Dani,

    I think it is a legitimate news/blog item, and people who are considering flying AI should know about the (serious) problems that exist, including safety issues.

  8. Believe or not, Air India does not have any fatal air accident after 1990, U.S. airlines however have way much more fatalities after 1990 compare with Air India…

  9. This sounds like a legitimate beef to have with an airline that fails to fire or rehabilitate drunk pilots. Seems like a pretty serious screw up to me. Some of Lucky’s posts are nothing but mindless gossip but this appears to be a serious problem with real implications for actual safety.

  10. @ Dani — It’s one thing to report on bad customer service or something similar at Air India, but I think when a pilot shows up drunk three times and still isn’t fired, well, that’s something the traveling public should know.

  11. I guess one could argue it would be better having the guy ‘grounded’ as an instructor 😉

  12. I flew Mumbai-London on Business Class last year. Great plane (Dreamliner) but strangely they served every drink on earth except wine – which is the only drink I wanted.

    I asked them where was the wine and they came back embarrassed and said that they had plenty of wine on board but no cork-screw to open the bottles! Are you kidding me, I said? They said Mumbai had forgotten to load the cork-screw.

    I was absolutely furious. On my return, I wrote to the Airline’s MD & all I got was some weasel apology from a PR flack 5 rungs below, whose job must keep her very busy.

  13. That’s why after my one flight from Del-ord I decided never to fly them, even Aeroflot is better compare to Ai, I don’t know why they are not seeking AI to conglomerate TATA .

  14. On the other side, your job, apparently, consists in drinking as much champagne as possible while flying and you don’t get fired…

    Both Air India and you should revise that policy

  15. Hi Lucky:

    So in all seriousness would you fly on air india?

    I currently have flights booked on them and am wondering if I’m being naive thinking the media blows these things way out of proportion or maybe it’s time for me to look for alternative routing?

  16. I saw this movie with Denzel Washington and sometimes these drunk pilots are really awesome pilots.
    People may not like it but it’s true.

  17. @Lisa – yes, it does make it better – by about 524 million. Let me know if you have trouble figuring that out. Hint: it involves using something that’s inside your skull.

    For all you cribbers out there – AI may not have had a corkscrew on one of their flights, but they have lost a airplane, wilfully killed passengers, or caused a crash by flying an unauthorized route. But realizing that involves intelligence which a lot of clowns lack.

  18. @ avi — I do plan on flying them soon. Am I slightly concerned about their maintenance and staff policies? Yes. But at the same time they haven’t had a fatal accident in 25 years, so…

  19. Air India is a good airline, atleast they have become much better recently. I am an Indian, living in India and I fly with them quite regularly. AI has one of the best pilots on board. I bet. Landings are seemlees even on aircraft like A320. The Indian food is something that I love when flying abroad. And finally, if you don’t want to fly AI, cancel your tickets. We 1.25 billion Indians are enough to fill AI flights.

  20. @lucky – are you seriously concerned about maintenance on AI when you regularly fly on airlines in the US with a distinguished record of negligence on their maintenance and old rotting aircraft??? Sorry, but I don’t follow you at all on the maintenance front. I am much more concerned in the US and even in Europe and South East Asia with the high volume of short flights putting so much stress on the air-frame on the maintenance front. If there is one thing that AI does well and is known for, it is that they take the maintenance practices seriously – can’t say the same for Delta based on comments from my neighbor who is a DL mechanical at CVG. I think you should be a lot more concerned when flying with the US.

  21. Whoever said that Air India hasn’t had a major accident after 1990 need to do their homework properly. On May 22, 2010, Air India Express Flight IX-812 crash landed itself in Mangalore, killing all but eight of its 160 crew and passengers on board the aircraft. There are many stories on why and how IX-812 crashed and they’re available at plenty of websites including this one ––7416#photo-82143.

    The Indian civil aviation sector is terribly mismanaged. If no major accident has happened since May 22, 2010, it is because aviation technology has improved by leaps and bounds. During this year (2016), an aircraft flying to Jaipur came short of landing itself at a highway parallel to the runway at the airport and two aircraft’s almost collided with each other in Guwahati.

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