A regulatory raid discovered that a dozen airport drivers, firefighters, and even plane maintenance employees reported to work drunk in India in the first two months of the year, reigniting fears about flight safety in an industry that has previously dealt with inebriated pilots.
According to a source familiar with the situation, ground employees with IndiGo, the country's largest airline, SpiceJet Ltd., and even Indian Oil Corp. were found to have failed breath-analyzer tests in January and February as part of a programme launched by India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation.
A first offence results in a suspension, and repeat offenders may have their airport work permits revoked, according to the source, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public.
In December, India changed its standards to broaden the scope of airport personnel exposed to breathalyser tests.
Maintenance personnel were included, as well as anyone who came to the cockpit for an inspection, audit, or instruction.
According to the person, the list has since been enlarged to include baggage cart drivers, loaders, push-back operators, and air traffic controllers.
By expanding the testing pool, India’s airport safety and operation standards will be closer to international standards. According to guidelines established last year, even when blood alcohol levels are near zero, the effects of any alcohol use might linger up to 36 hours.
The DGCA is overseen by India’s civil aviation ministry, which did not respond to a request for comment.
According to the statement, "being on certain medications can also cause employees to fail the breath-analyzer test." "However, there are very few instances of ground employees failing this test. To safeguard the safety of our passengers and personnel, we adhere to all established protocols."
SpiceJet and Indian Oil representatives did not immediately reply to calls for comment.
Drunk pilots have caused problems in other countries and airlines.
After a pilot showed up inebriated shortly before he was to operate a London-to-Tokyo flight, Japan Airlines Co. was forced to postpone a bond issue in 2018 and its president received a 20% pay cut for a few months.
After a pilot with budget carrier Jin Air Co. failed an alcohol test before a flight, South Korea’s transport ministry revoked his licence for 90 days and fined the company 210 million won ($172,200).
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