National carrier Air India on Monday rebutted allegations that passengers of its Sydney-Delhi flight were stranded in the Australian city after the pilot was tested positive for COVID-19.
Incidentally, the pilot had earlier tested negative for the pandemic and was on standby to operate another flight.
However, due to certain circumstances, he was rostered to operate the flight to Sydney. This move disturbed the synchronised pattern in which tests are conducted in the airline and this delayed the pilot's test report.
Accordingly, sources said that the pilot was informed about his positive report once he landed in Australia under the SoPs.
The incident happened on the Sydney-Delhi flight on June 20.
According to sources, the crew, including the pilot has been quarantined by the Australian authorities.
Consequently, Air India rushed a replacement crew to operate the flight.
On its part Air India in a statement said: "The said pilot had a valid pre-flight COVID negative test report just before operating the flight."
"We had no flight to Sydney yesterday, so no one is stranded there. The crew operating today's flight will take their mandatory rest and operate back. We have adhered to all the laid down protocols in this regard."
In an earlier incident on May 30, a ferry flight of the national carrier had taken off from Delhi for Moscow and returned after a crew member was found COVID-19 positive.
The flight being operated under the Vande Bharat mission was halfway over Central Asia when it was called back.
That time the airline's staff overseeing the operations mistook the pilot's test report as 'negative' while he had tested 'positive' for Covid-19.
Subsequently, the aircraft was informed and the SoPs meant for such situations were immediately implemented.
The incident was termed as "unfortunate" by many industry insiders, as Air India has been instrumental in carrying out Covid-19 evacuation operations for around five months now. The airline is well conversant with the safety protocols which mandate Covid-19 testing of the crew before and after a flight.