Oops: SpiceJet Crew Stuck On Plane For Overnight Layover

25

The Times of India reports on what sounds like a mighty unpleasant layover for one unlucky SpiceJet crew.

Why a SpiceJet crew spent their layover on a plane

Last week, Indian low cost carrier SpiceJet operated a charter flight to Zagreb, Croatia, using a Boeing 737-800 with the registration code VT-SGX:

  • On Tuesday, May 11, 2021, SpiceJet flew from Delhi to Tbilisi to Zagreb (the stop in Tbilisi was to refuel)
  • On Wednesday, May 12, 2021, SpiceJet flew from Zagreb to Delhi (there was no stop needed thanks to tailwinds and how light the aircraft was — more on that below)

The crew (including four pilots plus flight attendants) arrived in Zagreb expecting to have a layover in a hotel. However, upon arrival authorities asked crew members for their negative coronavirus PCR tests, which they didn’t have, as the airline didn’t advise the crew that they needed to be tested. The crew was therefore denied entry to Croatia.

At this point SpiceJet was in a tricky situation:

  • The crew wouldn’t be able to leave the plane
  • At the same time, the crew had worked too many hours to fly back to Delhi, as they contractually needed to rest
  • On top of that, resting on the plane doesn’t count as proper crew rest for the purposes of being “legal” to fly

After the airline consulted India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), a compromise was reached:

  • The crew would have to spend the night on the plane to get mandatory rest
  • When the flight returned to India the next day, three pilots would have to be in the cockpit at all times
  • The flight back to India couldn’t carry any passengers for safety reasons
  • The entire crew had to agree that they were happy with this arrangement

Ground personnel allegedly provided the crew with bedding, food, and water, so that they could at least get some rest. The flight returned empty the following day without issues.

How was this mistake made?

Admittedly it can be difficult to keep track of travel restrictions nowadays, though you’d think an airline would have this under control. So how did the company make the mistake of not testing the crew prior to travel, even though a test was apparently required?

Well, according to a SpiceJet spokesperson:

Prior to departure from India, e-mail confirmation was received from Croatian authorities that RT-PCR test 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. That came as a surprise.

Does anyone know if the crew testing requirements had actually changed inflight for an Indian crew (in which case it seems like Croatia was acting unreasonably), or is the company just trying to find a scapegoat for this embarrassing mistake?

One would think that if requirements had actually changed while inflight there would either be some grace period, or otherwise the airport authority would rapid test the crew on arrival.

It’s said that the DGCA has “admonished” SpiceJet for this incident.

Bottom line

The logistics of travel are complicated nowadays, and that applies whether you’re a passenger or crew. SpiceJet didn’t test a crew working a trip to Croatia, only to find out on arrival that this was needed.

This left the crew in a tricky situation — they weren’t allowed to leave the plane, but also weren’t allowed to fly back to India due to lack of rest. So the crew spent the night on the plane, before eventually flying back the next day without passengers.

Kudos to the crew for seemingly rolling with the punches, not that they had much of an option.

Conversations (25)
Oldest comments are displayed first.

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Type your response here.

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Anyone can comment, and your email address will not be published. Register to save your unique username and earn special OMAAT reputation perks!

  1. Fed UP

    no doubt, because it was an Indian crew... I doubt Lufthansa, etc would have been treated this way

  2. Max J

    Why was Spicejet in Zagreb?!! Cargo?

  3. Jack

    Why they didn’t do the COVID test upon arrival, and made a agreement via embassy help to self-isolate in the hotel?

  4. MetsNomad

    Fed Up: Lufthansa crew, most likely citizens of Germany and conversely the European Union, have the same right to enter and remain in Croatia, a European Union member state, just like any Croatian citizen. Indian (and American and Canadian crew) not so much.

    Racism did not influence that decision, if you’re looking to go there.

  5. Stephen Morrissey

    Well, variety is the Spice of life...

  6. dan

    MetsNomad,
    Your reply was spot on.

  7. derek

    I am surprised that Spice was not forced to send relief pilots to Zagreb. That might have taken a few days, causing the first crew to camp in the aircraft for several days.

  8. Eskimo

    @MetsNomad

    Would you think any German crew would have accepted such conditions?
    A 7 foot German crew could hardly fit in those 29 inch pitch.

  9. Joe Chivas

    What does the hard product in SpiceJet's F cabin look like? Reverse herringbone lie-flats?

  10. Endre

    Fed Up: dumb comment, dumber comparison.

  11. Jared

    This news is already dated. Based on sources, this was a repatriation flight for diplomats and citizens of Croatia. Many of the domestic carriers lend out their aircraft for charter. It is also rumored that the Cargo contained some essential medication that is regularly shipped from India.

    Based on more recent comments from the officials form the Embassy of Croatia, there was confusion. The Croatian authorities had acknowledged that the crew did not require...

    This news is already dated. Based on sources, this was a repatriation flight for diplomats and citizens of Croatia. Many of the domestic carriers lend out their aircraft for charter. It is also rumored that the Cargo contained some essential medication that is regularly shipped from India.

    Based on more recent comments from the officials form the Embassy of Croatia, there was confusion. The Croatian authorities had acknowledged that the crew did not require tests within the 72 hour period as they had undergone tests just 7 days ago. However, confusion on the ground and miscommunication between the airport authorities led to the crew being restricted from entry. All in all, a crisis averted and the crew managed in good spirit.

    I don't favour Spice Jet, but in this case they were not seeking a "scapegoat."

  12. Sean M.

    Planning and executing ad-hoc flights like this during COVID has been challenging, and often the authorities themselves are not entirely sure what the regulations are which leaves the crews at the mercy of whoever is the senior officer on a particular shift (sometimes good, sometimes bad!).

    Two experiences come to mind - one right at the beginning of COVID where a new regulation was put out just a few minutes after a flight took off...

    Planning and executing ad-hoc flights like this during COVID has been challenging, and often the authorities themselves are not entirely sure what the regulations are which leaves the crews at the mercy of whoever is the senior officer on a particular shift (sometimes good, sometimes bad!).

    Two experiences come to mind - one right at the beginning of COVID where a new regulation was put out just a few minutes after a flight took off from base that the only crewmembers allowed into a particular country were "citizens" of that country, and that other airlines should plan to double crew flights so they could return to origin without a layover. Unfortunately, the captain of our flight that had just departed was an expatriate "resident" rather than a citizen meaning that if the flight was allowed to land at its destination, we couldn't bring the aircraft back home. So we had to radio the aircraft to turn around (about 40 minutes into the flight) and they had to land back at origin with a bunch of very upset passengers. Eventually, the NOTAM was modified around 6 hours later to reflect "residents" rather than just "citizens" and the flight was allowed to proceed (with a different crew anyway).

    The second one has a happier ending. We were ferrying an ERJ-145 and needed a tech stop somewhere between Johannesburg and Libreville in Gabon. All the possible options at the time (Namibia, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana) had their borders closed at the time per the NOTAMs issued so there seemed to be no straightforward way to get this done. However, one of our Zimbabwean engineers knew the manager of Vic Falls Airport and spoke to him - he confirmed that while the borders were officially closed he could arrange for fuel on a tech stop for us. We had our fingers crossed they could make it in as the destination alternates were Kasane in Botswana and Livingstone in Zambia, both of which were closed to foreign traffic at the time so if they had to land there it would be a nightmare. No ATC on duty in the tower and no other planes in the airspace at the time, but the crew were able to get in and out of Zim safely for a splash and dash.

  13. Sean M.

    @Jared - the SpiceJet flight was a charter carrying the Indian national shooting team to an international competition in Croatia. Nothing to do with repatriation.

  14. SS

    Irrespective of when the rules were changed inflight or not by the Croatian authorities I will put the entire blame on the dispatch team of Spicejet. Its plain stupidity to not test the crew before an international flight in current times when COVID-19 cases are exploding in India and almost the entire world banning any travel from India.

    The RT-PCR test for the 4 crew members at New Delhi would have costed US$ 75 for...

    Irrespective of when the rules were changed inflight or not by the Croatian authorities I will put the entire blame on the dispatch team of Spicejet. Its plain stupidity to not test the crew before an international flight in current times when COVID-19 cases are exploding in India and almost the entire world banning any travel from India.

    The RT-PCR test for the 4 crew members at New Delhi would have costed US$ 75 for Spicejet. Considering how petty this airline is just to save on this cost they would have not asked the crew to get the tests before departure.

  15. DCharlie

    @SS - it's not actually that simple since airlines are testing their crew regularly. Testing takes time and there is really little point in testing multiple times within a span of three days, which they would have needed to do to be dispatched in time.

  16. DCharlie

    It's a training and competition trip. The Indian National Shooting Team will be based in Zagreb for the remaining duration until the Olympics since it's safer for them to train outside of India right now. Zagreb is a good remote base as they will be attending the European Championships starting in a few days.

    @Jared - there were earlier flights to Zagreb for repatriation. This particular flight wasn't one of them. There were indeed sudden...

    It's a training and competition trip. The Indian National Shooting Team will be based in Zagreb for the remaining duration until the Olympics since it's safer for them to train outside of India right now. Zagreb is a good remote base as they will be attending the European Championships starting in a few days.

    @Jared - there were earlier flights to Zagreb for repatriation. This particular flight wasn't one of them. There were indeed sudden change of regulations while in flight and despite clarification from authorities, the staff on ground faced confusion.

  17. Chilangoflyer

    I did not find any special rules for travels from India to Croatia. The official rules require a test for anyone (except EU citizens coming from an EU country). Another exception are workers in the transportation sector, if they stay in Croatia less than 12 hours. Otherwise they need a test or do one upon arrival (with self isolation until the results arrive)...

  18. MetsNomad

    @ Eskimo

    I think German crew would NOT be put through any of these conditions. As EU Citizens, they have a LEGAL RIGHT to enter, live, work and stay in Croatia as long as they like, just like any citizen of Croatia.

  19. Eshika

    They deserve it as money minded company they took my money cancel my flight and make me buy another one I wish this company go in loss that the owner has to beg for food then they realize how bad it is to take some poor people's hard earned money

  20. Danimal

    I can tell you that Swiss crews regularly slept on board their modified 777 planes in PVG since they were not allowed to use Chinese hotels. Nobody complained. Btw: crewrests are useless on ground. Boeing never thought about venting them when not in flight…. What I heard is that even now people would prefer tobstay on boyrd instead to have to use those quarantine hell hotels….

  21. Kamelot

    Why couldn’t they just get tested on arrival!?!? Does Zagreb not realize that can be done??? So idiotic!

  22. Eskimo

    @MetsNomad

    You're still missing the point, and yes your statement is correct.

    This is why fake news thrives, PC creates cancel culture, and we have a divided county. Everyone demands their LEGAL RIGHTS, yet most never think about the context.

  23. Tracy

    EU internal borders are still up and being enforced. See news of Portugal and the Netherlands opening their borders to EU citizens

  24. MetsNomad

    Demanding your legal rights should NEVER, EVER be a problem!

  25. Emily

    Agree with @Eskimo. The context around the creation of legal rights or rather who the legal rights leave out is to be understood. The abstract idea of nation-states and that legal rights for each nation are valid up to arbitrary border are not natural. However, this topic is probably not suited nor relevant to this blog and audience.

Featured Comments Load all 25 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Emily

Agree with @Eskimo. The context around the creation of legal rights or rather who the legal rights leave out is to be understood. The abstract idea of nation-states and that legal rights for each nation are valid up to arbitrary border are not natural. However, this topic is probably not suited nor relevant to this blog and audience.

MetsNomad

Demanding your legal rights should NEVER, EVER be a problem!

Tracy

EU internal borders are still up and being enforced. See news of Portugal and the Netherlands opening their borders to EU citizens

Meet Ben Schlappig, OMAAT Founder
4,523,713 Miles Traveled

25,807,500 Words Written

28,675 Posts Published