Scores of airport firefighters, handlers and even maintenance staff in India were found to have worked whilst under the influence of alcohol.

The regulatory crackdown initiated by India’s aviation regulator has seen concerns renewed over flight safety in a region that has suffered in the past with intoxicated workers.

Tests failed in January and February

Ground staff employed by India’s largest airline, IndiGo, were found to have failed alcohol breath tests taken in the first two months of the year.

man hacks indian airline website to find luggage
IndiGo staff are among those found to have failed alcohol breath tests | © Md Shaifuzzaman Ayon

According to an insider, current regulations see an initial test failure leading to a suspension, whilst further test failures may see work permits withdrawn. The source commented anonymously as the test failures were not made public by officials.

India’s civil aviation ministry did not immediately comment on the alleged test failures.

Medication may cause test failures, says IndiGo

IndiGo released a statement that downplayed the severity of intoxicated workers amongst its ranks.

Having suggested COVID-19 may have meant many workers were required to take medication, the airline went on to say that “being on certain medication can lead to employees failing the breath analyser test.”

“However, cases of ground staff failing this test are far and few between. We follow all laid down protocols to ensure the safety of our passengers and employees.”

Regulators have recently expressed a desire to increase testing in the country to bring safety standards more closely aligned with global benchmarks. According to guidance issued by the nation’s regulator last year, the effects of alcohol consumption can last as long as 36 hours.

The aviation industry in India has struggled with ensuring sobriety amongst staff. A senior pilot and member of the board at Air India failed an alcohol breath test just an hour before a flight to London in 2018.

In 2016, Indian authorities, for the first time, demanded that airlines report any instances of drunk pilots to the police.

What do you make of these latest allegations? Let us know in the comments below.

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