Air India pilot Arvind Kathpalia, whose flying licence was suspended in November 2018 after he failed pre-flight alcohol tests, has been appointed Regional Director (Northern Region) in the airline, said an official document on Tuesday.
"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," said an Air India notification.
On November 11 last year, Kathpalia had tested positive for alcohol in two breath analyser (BA) tests before he was to fly Air India's New Delhi-London flight.
The next day, aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) suspended his flying licence for three years, and on November 13, the Ministry of Civil Aviation issued an order to remove him from the position of Director, Operations.
However, a week later, he was posted him as Executive Director by the Airline.
An Air India spokesperson on Tuesday said: "Appointment of Arvind Kathpalia as Director Northern Region is according to law. Earlier, he was Executive Director and Regional Director is equivalent to Executive Director."
Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), which represents the pilots flying the narrow body aircraft of Air India, "strongly" condemned Kathpalia's appointment.
It said,"Top officials are bending backwards to elevate a tainted official. He's been made in-charge of NR (Northern Region) where he will be able to intimidate people who had given statements in police enquiry. Disciplinary action against commanders come under RD-NR. Its ethically wrong.
The ICPA said:"A person who has broken the law and charge sheet pending against him cannot take disciplinary action against other employees. ICPA strongly condemns this. We need justice. It's yet again proven people with strong political connections can get away with any crime."
Kathpalia was taken off flying duties earlier too. In February 2017, when he was working at the position of executive director of operations, his flying licence was suspended for three months on charges of skipping a pre-flight alcohol test.
Consequently, he was removed from the post of executive director of operations. However, in March 2018, he was posted as Director of Operations.
Rule 24 of the Aircraft Rules prohibits crew members from partaking any alcoholic drink 12 hours prior to the commencement of a flight, and it is mandatory for him/her to undergo an alcohol test both before and after operating a flight.