Drama unfolds at Air India, as a senior pilot was grounded on Sunday for failing breathalyzer tests - which he claims is a set up sparked by internal feuds in the company. There are plenty of instances of pilots drinking on the job (or more accurately, before starting their workday), and ending up grounded or even fired for their behavior... and with good reason.

Autopilot may do a lot of the work these days, but the man in the cockpit still has to control take off and landing, as well as inputting the correct destination and settings, and taking over if something with autopilot should go wrong. It's pretty important, then, that the person in charge of a plane full of passengers is stone cold sober - which Air India claims was not the case with one of their pilots a few days ago.


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On Sunday, an Air India plane was grounded after the pilot (Arvind Kathpalia) failed two breathalyzer tests taken 20 minutes apart. Kathpalia, who is also director of operations for Air India, was scheduled to be piloting the flight from New Delhi to London when he failed the tests. Kathpalia, however, is contesting the results - he claims that they are faked, and that the issue stems from conflict within the company after a merger, not from alcohol use at all.

It was 1:30 in the afternoon, only a bloody stark raving alcoholic is bloody drunk at 1:30 in the afternoon. I am going to contest this.

Kathpalia has come up against Air India over breathalyzer tests once before, in 2017. In this case, he didn't fail a breathalyzer test, he refused to take one. On a flight between Bengaluru and New Delhi, Kathpalia allegedly refused to take the test, and was suspended for three months as a result. Again, the senior pilot claims that there was no issue with the breath tests, but that he was under attack after a merger between Air India and Indian Airlines that left many people unhappy;

There is a lot of animosity after the merger. The animosity exists till today. They refuse to acknowledge each other

The union, which was originally from Indian Airlines (while Kathpalia was from Air India pre-merger), has had other issues with Kathpalia. They contested his promotion to operations director in court when it happened, which is sure to have exacerbated the conflict between them.

Whether this pilot was under the influence or is dealing with inter-company issues, passengers are sure to be happy that Air India didn't take the risk and let him fly!

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Source: Reuters