Why Did AirAsia India Fire Pilot Gaurav Taneja, Who’d Raised Safety Concerns at the Airline?

Social Commentary

Why Did AirAsia India Fire Pilot Gaurav Taneja, Who’d Raised Safety Concerns at the Airline?

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

In a coronavirus-afflicted world, air travel is fraught with safety concerns. But even without the pandemic, it’s a risky mode of transport, as the expanse of safety regulations in place shows. However, when some airline companies seek to cut corners on the regulations, the safety of passengers is endangered. AirAsia India was served a show-cause notice by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in response to allegations about safety violations at the airline raised by one of their pilots who turned whistleblower, Gaurav Taneja. He was also fired from his job.

Gaurav Taneja is a pilot as well as a popular vlogger, and on 15 June, he released a vlog titled “Reasons behind suspension from my pilot job”. Two days earlier, he had raised the issue of safety violations at AirAsia India, and was suspended from his post. In his vlog, he shared the details.

He alleged that pilots were being forced to work on their off days, and that coronavirus safety protocols were not strictly adhered to. But the most dangerous of the alleged violations was that the airline recommends that pilots carry out 98 per cent of their landings in “Flap 3 Mode” to save fuel as part of its Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), even when it could endanger passenger safety.

Throughout his suspension, Taneja stuck to his allegations. He took on the mantle of a whistleblower working for public safety in the aviation industry, tweeting under the hashtag #SabKeLiye. Two weeks after Taneja first posted his video, AirAsia India terminated his employment with the airline.

However, the DGCA had begun an investigation into Taneja’s allegations a day after the video was posted. AirAsia India’s Chief of Flight Safety, Amit Singh, had responded to the video saying he had resigned from his position after the airline had asked him to cover up safety issues.

In the midst of Taneja’s allegations and DGCA’s show-cause notice, reports also emerged last week that AirAsia may not be long for the Indian market. Currently in the Indian Market through a joint venture with the Tata Group, the Malaysian parent company reportedly considers India a peripheral market. It’s not without complications though, as AirAsia’s founder, Tony Fernandes, is also being investigated on corruption charges.

With the pandemic still in full swing through the country, travel of any sort, including air travel, is not recommended outside emergencies. And even when things cool down, perhaps Googling the safety record of your airline before buying a ticket is a smart idea, especially if you’re planning to go with AirAsia India. Just ask Gaurav Taneja.