Amid India’s biggest repatriation operations under the Vande Bharat Mission, five Air India pilots and two staffers of the Air India Engineering Services Limited (AIESL) have tested positive for Covid-19 in Mumbai, as per sources. The pilots had operated one cargo flight to China recently. Air India has been regularly operating flights to China, Hong Kong and Shanghai for medical supplies since the imposition of the nationwide lockdown.
The five Air India pilots have been operating Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The last flight which all the effected pilots operated was on 20 April. These five pilots have tested positive after 77 pilots of the airline had undergone covid-19 tests on 9 May. All the corona-positive pilots were asymptomatic. “The news has made many pilots uneasy, especially those who are currently rostered to operate repatriation flights under the India’s biggest evacuation Vande Bharat Mission,” said a senior Air India official on the condition of anonymity.
As per the government guidelines for the repatriation flights, the process is that the airline crew undergoes a Covid-19 test before and after they operate the flight. Postflight crew wait for the test results in their hotel, which takes 24-48 hours. If they test negative, they can go to their residence. Five days after arrival, the crew take another Covid test. If this test too comes out negative and the crew concerned doesn’t show from any symptoms of the virus, then could they are rostered for further flying duties.
The pilots are only the latest additions in the list of front line workers hit by the highly infectious virus. Around 100 healthcare workers have already been affected by coronavirus, a chunk of them are from Delhi and Mumbai. Earlier, one members of Air India crew and one from customer care staff of the airline’s ground handling subsidiary AIASL have been tested positive with corona-
virus, however both have recovered now.
Currently, Air India is engaged in bringing back stranded Indians from different
countries in what is possibly the biggest rescue operation in peacetime. The first phase of the rescue operations started from 7 May and the airline will be operating 64 flights in the first week to bring back around 15,000 Indians. More than 1,90,000 stranded Indians have registered to return to their country.