SpiceJet crew stuck on plane for overnight stopover
The Times of India reports what looks like an unpleasant layover for an unlucky SpiceJet crew.
Why a SpiceJet crew stopped over on a plane
Last week, Indian low-cost airline SpiceJet operated a charter flight to Zagreb, Croatia, using a Boeing 737-800 with the registration code VT-SGX:
- On Tuesday May 11, 2021, SpiceJet flew from Delhi to Tbilisi to Zagreb (the stop in Tbilisi was to refuel)
- On Wednesday May 12, 2021, SpiceJet flew from Zagreb to Delhi (there was no stopping necessary thanks to the tailwinds and the lightness of the aircraft – more on that below)
The crew (including four pilots and flight attendants) arrived in Zagreb awaiting a stopover at a hotel. However, on arrival, authorities asked the crew members for their negative PCR tests for the coronavirus, which they did not have, as the airline did not notify the crew that they needed to be tested. . The crew was therefore refused entry into Croatia.
At this point, SpiceJet was in a sticky situation:
- The crew could not leave the plane
- At the same time, the crew had worked too many hours to return to Delhi, as they contractually needed to rest.
- In addition to this, rest on the airplane does not count as appropriate crew rest for the purposes of being “legal” to fly.
After the airline consulted with the Indian Civil Aviation Authority (DGCA), a compromise was reached:
- The crew should spend the night on the plane to get a mandatory rest
- When the flight returned to India the next day, three pilots should be in the cockpit at all times
- Return flight to India could not carry any passengers for safety reasons
- The whole crew had to agree that they were happy with this arrangement.
Ground staff reportedly provided the crew with bedding, food and water, so they could at least rest. The flight returned empty the next day with no problem.
How was this mistake made?
Granted, it can be difficult to keep up with travel restrictions these days, even if you think an airline would have it under control. So how did the company make the mistake of not testing the crew before the trip, even though testing was apparently needed?
Well, according to a spokesperson for SpiceJet:
Prior to departure from India, Croatian authorities confirmed via email that the RT-PCR test is not required for the crew. Upon arrival in Zagreb, the crew were informed that orders had changed. Due to the sudden and massive increase in Covid cases in India, they have now been told that RT-PCR is needed. It was a surprise.
Does anyone know if the crew test requirements have actually changed in flight for an Indian crew (in which case it appears Croatia has acted unreasonably), or is the company just trying to find a scapegoat for this embarrassing mistake?
One would think that if the requirements had actually changed during the flight, there would either be a grace period or the airport authority would conduct a quick test of the arriving crew.
The DGCA is said to have “warned” SpiceJet about this incident.
At the end of the line
Travel logistics are complicated these days, and this applies whether you are a passenger or a crew. SpiceJet did not test a crew on a trip to Croatia, only to find upon arrival that it was necessary.
This left the crew in a tight spot – they were not allowed to leave the plane, but they were also not allowed to return to India due to lack of rest. The crew therefore spent the night in the plane, before finally returning the next day without passengers.
Kudos to the crew for seemingly rolling with the punches, not that they had a lot of options.