Stranded SpiceJet pilots spend 21 hours in an aircraft

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SpiceJet pilots were reportedly forced to spend 21 hours inside an aircraft during a stop in Zagreb Franjo Tudman Airport (ZAG), Croatia. SpiceJet cockpit crew were not allowed to get off the Boeing 737-800 aircraft without a negative pre-flight COVID-19 test. 

SpiceJet operated the flight SG9035 from Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL), India, to ZAG  on May 11, 2021. Upon arrival in Croatia, the cockpit crew was not allowed to get off the aircraft due to a missing pre-flight mandatory COVID-19 test, forcing the four pilots to remain in the aircraft, Indian media has reported. In total, pilots spent 21 hours on board. t. 

“Prior to departure from India, email confirmation was received from Croatian authorities that RT-PCR is not required for crew. On arrival in Zagreb, the crew was told that orders had changed. Due to the sudden and massive increase in Covid cases in India, they have now been instructed that RT-PCR tests are required,” a SpiceJet spokesperson told the Times of India.

Due to pilot flight time duty limitation, the SpiceJet crew was prohibited from flying back to Delhi, India, immediately after the incident. According to India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), every crew member must rest in suitable conditions in order to maintain “acceptable levels of alertness at all times”.

“Every crew member shall be given rest, which will be pro-rata twice the flight time,” Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) rules state.

SpiceJet sought DGCA’s clearance to operate the Boeing 737-800 aircraft under special circumstances, as mandatory pilot rest was not in a suitable environment. The regulator cleared pilots to operate the aircraft. However, the DGCA asked the airline to operate the aircraft without passengers or cargo, with three pilots remaining in the cockpit at all times during the flight.


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