Arvind Kathpalia, who is responsible for safety at the airline as operations director, denied drinking on the job and said he would contest the results of the alcohol checks.
“It was 1.30pm in the afternoon, only a bloody stark raving alcoholic is bloody drunk at 1.30pm in the afternoon,” Mr Kathpalia told Reuters. “I am going to contest this.”
It is the second time Mr Kathpalia has been in trouble over breathalyser tests. He was suspended for three months in 2017 for allegedly refusing to be assessed.
A second Air India employee was also grounded on Sunday.
Flight AI 332 from New Delhi to Bangkok was ordered to return 30 minutes after taking off as the co-pilot was found to have missed his mandatory, pre-flight breathalyser test.
Passengers were then stuck on the tarmac for several hours before the airline replaced the flight crew, according to India Today.
The AI 111 flight to London was delayed by almost one hour after Mr Kathpalia failed two breathalyser tests and was declared unfit to pilot the plane.
The operations director – who is responsible for both the airline’s flight safety and training programme – blamed internal politics at the state-owned company for the results of his tests.
Mr Kathpalia said that at Air India “everyone is fighting with everyone”.
Despite being suspended by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the senior pilot said the 2017 allegation “was a complete set-up”.
He claimed it was the result of a scheduling issue rather than his refusal to take tests.
Mr Kathpalia insisted he is under attack partly because he is an employee of the original Air India, prior to its 2007 merger with Indian Airlines. “There is a lot of animosity after the merger,” he said.
Air India declined to comment on the failed breathalyser tests.
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