Air India Captain Arvind Kathpalia, whose flying licence was suspended in November for failing an alcohol test, was promoted to the post of the airline’s regional director for northern region on Tuesday, PTI reported. Kathpalia will take charge from Wednesday.
“Consequent to the retirement of Mr Pankaj Kumar, Regional Director (Northern Region) after the close of the working hours of 30th April, 2019, Capt. Arvind Kathpalia will take over the charge of the post of Regional Director (Northern Region) with effect from May 1, 2019,” Air India said in a statement.
The Indian Commercial Pilots Association condemned the airline’s move. “Top officials are bending backwards to elevate a tainted official,” they said, according to ANI. “He has been made in-charge of NR [northern region] where he will be able to intimidate people who gave statements in police inquiry.”
The association alleged that Air India’s move proves that people with strong political connections “can get away with any crime”. “A person who has broken the law and has chargesheet pending against him cannot take disciplinary action against other employees,” it added. “ICPA strongly condemns this.”
On November 11, 2018, Kathpalia failed the breathalyser test administered before he was scheduled to operate Delhi-London flight AI 111. All pilots are required to undergo an alcohol test before their flights and are not allowed to drink liquor up to 12 hours before their departure time.
Two days later, the Ministry of Civil Aviation issued an order to remove him from the position of Director Operations.
Kathpalia had been suspended for three months in 2017 for skipping a breathalyser test. At the time, he was Air India’s executive director of operations. Kathpalia was removed from the post but was later appointed the director of operations for five years.