An Air India pilot failed two breathalyzer tests before trying to fly a plane, but he denies he was drunk after being fired

  • An Air India pilot was fired by the airline after twice failing a breathalyzer test an hour before he was scheduled to pilot a plane.
  • According to Economic Times of India, Captain Arvind Kathpalia of Air India Airlines was scheduled to pilot AI-Flight 111 from Delhi to London on November 11 when he failed a pre-flight breathalyzer test and deemed “not fit to fly.”
  • Economic Times in India reports Captain Kathpalia was relieved of his duties “with immediate effect” and that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) suspended his flying licence for three years.
  • Reuters reports that Kathpalia plans to contest this charge.

An Air India pilot was fired by the airline after twice failing a breathalyzer test an hour before he was scheduled to pilot a plane, multiple sources have reported.

According to Economic Times of India, Captain Arvind Kathpalia of Air India Airlines was scheduled to pilot AI-Flight 111 from Delhi to London on November 11 when he failed a pre-flight breathalyzer test and deemed “not fit to fly.”

Fox News reports that after failing his first test, Kathpalia was administered a second test, but failed that one as well.

Economic Times in India reports Captain Kathpalia was relieved of his duties “with immediate effect” and that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) suspended his flying licence for three years.


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The Times of India has confirmed Captain Kathpalia was one of 10 directors on the board of Air India and that he was the airline’s director of operations, a position that left him “in charge of ensuring safe and efficient flight operations.”

Air India did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

Fox News reports Air India released a statement that said, “We have grounded Capt. AK Kathpalia as he failed twice in the breath analyser test. He was given another chance, but the second test was also found positive, following which he was grounded.”

Kathpalia first came under the watch of airline authorities in January 2017, when The Times of India reports he refused to undergo a mandatory pre-flight Breathalyzer test in Delhi, and then refused once again to undergo a post-flight test upon landing in Bengaluru.

While the DGCA suspended his licence for three months in March 2017, The Times of India reports Kathpalia was removed from his position as Air India’s executive director of operations, but three weeks later the Appointments Committee of Cabinet approved his appointment to the director of operations position for a five-year term.

Reuters reports that Kathpalia plans to contest this latest charge and that he is quoted as saying his 2017 charge is “a complete set-up.”

“It was 1:30 in the afternoon, only a bloody stark raving alcoholic is bloody drunk at 1:30 in the afternoon,” Kathpalia said, according to Reuters, who reported Kathpalia denied that he had been drinking and quoted him as saying at Air India “everyone is fighting with everyone” and that he had been targeted.

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