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Tipsy first officer delays Dubai-bound flight by over 5 hours

spicejetMangaluru: A SpiceJet crew showing up for work in an inebriated condition at Mangaluru International Airport (MIA) resulted in flight SG-059 to Dubai leaving after over a 5-hour delay on Wednesday. The flight, scheduled to take off at 12.15am, finally left MIA at 5.45am after the airline arranged for a replacement crew. The 180-odd passengers booked on the flight were forced to spend the night in the airport lounge.

SpiceJet, acknowledging the 330-minute delay, said Corendon Airlines first officer Sebahat Ulku Erk was rostered to operate SpiceJet flight SG-059 (wet lease aircraft) Mangaluru-Dubai on January 17.

“The first officer failed to meet stringent SpiceJet safety standards and tested positive during pre-flight medical check for alcohol, and was not permitted to operate the flight. He has been suspended and sent back to his country,” the airline said.

Sources in MIA told that it is mandatory for all airlines to subject their flight crew to mandatory medical examination at the medical inspection room of the airport, prior to each originating flight.

While this process takes nearly 45 minutes to an hour in case of domestic flights, this process can take up to 90 minutes in case of international flights. The flight crews report in advance to complete the pre-flight requirements, as mandated by regulator DGCA, sources said.

The airlines are also mandated, as per their policies, to take care of passengers booked on board a particular flight in case of delays due to technical, mechanical or personnel issues such as the one above, the sources said. A source in the airline said had the rostered crew been alright, the flight would have taken off in time to beat the 12.15am to 4.30am Notice to Airmen (Notam) that bars flight movements to and from MIA during this period for maintenance reasons.

Incidentally, SpiceJet has an excellent track record for this particular flight (SG-059) to Dubai, with on-time departures. Barring a 47-minute delay on December 24, 27-minute delay on Christmas Day last year, and a 101-minute delay on November 9, the flight has logged on-time departure since October 15 to date. MIA airport director V V Rao told that SpiceJet handled the situation as per norms laid down by DGCA, and that MIA has no role in their operational matters.