Low-cost carrier SpiceJet Ltd has suspended two pilots, including a captain, in the wake of a showcause notice issued by the aviation regulator asking why the airline’s licence should not be suspended for “violating” safety rules during special Holi flights.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) notice came after the co-pilot of a Goa-Bangalore flight left the cockpit to watch and record cabin crew members dance in the course of a flight on Monday.
“This (pilot venturing out of the cockpit to record the event) is in violation of rules and could have impacted passenger safety. We have also issued a showcause notice to the airline asking them to reply as to why their licence should not be cancelled,” said a senior DGCA official.
The notice was issued to the airline after cabin crew were reported to have told the DGCA that they performed the dance at the insistence of the management.
The airline has responded by saying that there was no safety violation. It said a Holi dance by cabin crew on board an aircraft is new to India but similar “fun activities” are routinely held by airlines round the world to entertain passengers. SpiceJet carried out these Holi celebrations on as many as eight of its flights on that day.
“Our pilots on the flight were derostered after the DGCA order. No other pilots in any of the flight have been suspended or derostered. As far as showcause notice is concerned, we will reply to that notice,” said a SpiceJet spokesperson.
The airline ran the special flights on 17 March and videos of dancing crew have been been doing the rounds on the internet. SpiceJet has 57 planes and operates 350 flights daily.
According to aviation experts, the instance of a pilot coming out into the cabin area goes against the International Civil Aviation Organisation security manual recommendations. DGCA’s circular on manning a plane’s cockpit says that “in case one of the crew members has to leave the cockpit during the non-critical phases of flight, the cabin crew is required to be inside the cockpit and occupy the observer seat. In no case the cabin crew will occupy the seats meant for cockpit crew…(but will remain vigilant) in case of subtle incapacitation of the flight deck crew.”
Two years ago, the crew of Finnair flight AY201, flying from Helsinki to New Delhi on January 17, broke into a dance midway through the flight.
Around 24 of the airline’s crew emerged in traditional Indian attire and proceeded to dance in a choreographed fashion to Bollywood music.
Finnair employees said the dance was intended to commemorate India’s Republic Day.