What had happened in flight RA-416?

Published On: March 5, 2023 07:50 PM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, March 5:  The conflict between pilots and flight attendants of the state-owned Nepal Airlines Corporation, which have been going on for at least seven months, has come to the surface. A notice issued by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) has brought to the surface the dispute which had been lurking inside.

On February 24, the authority announced through Twitter that its serious attention has been drawn to the issue of unprofessional actions and misbehavior on the flight attendant (air hostess) by the pilot working in the Nepal Airlines Corporation, and all the active members of the crew on the flight have been suspended from the flight immediately.

According to the information shared by CAAN, the incident took place seven months ago on July 28, 2022. It is mentioned in the notice that the incident took place on board flight RA-416 the flag carrier of Nepal was returning to Kathmandu from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

NAC’s flight RA-416 carrying 158 passengers went to Kuala Lumpur on July 27. As it was a night flight (odd hour), four pilots were sent on the flight. Captain Mukesh Kumar Gupta and Co-Pilot Raj Raunyiar were in charge of the aircraft bound for Malaysia and Captain Arbinda Raj Pahari and Co-Pilot Lal Bahadur Thakali commanded the plane during the return flight.

Similarly, there were six people in the cabin crew (hostess). It was led by Senior Flight Attendant (IFS) Aarti Maharjan. Other members included Zarina Shrestha, Priya Basnet and Deepika Kuinkel. Purser Nikesh Maharjan was also in the crew.

The flight was scheduled to fly from Kuala Lumpur to Kathmandu on July 28. As per the schedule, the crew started preparing for the flight and the crew members were also assigned to their respective responsibilities. At the same time Captain Pahari instructed IFS Maharjan to send 'A-1' (another flight attendant) to the cockpit. According to Maharjan's instructions, she sent another flight attendant (Priya Basnet) who is junior to her to the cockpit. 

Pahari asked Basnet to take full responsibility of IFS during the flight. He briefed Basnet that IFS Maharjan should not have any contact with the cockpit. She told the same thing to IFS Maharjan.

Maharjan did not immediately respond. "There could have been a fight if I had reacted there which could be detrimental to the safety of the aircraft,” said IFS Maharjan, “So as per the captain's instructions, I sat without reacting.” 

She later reported the incident verbally to Captain Vijay Lama, the deputy director of the 'Cabin Crew Division', the agency that oversees the management of flight attendants.

IFS Maharjan said that the behavior of Captain Pahari was abusive to her. “The Pilot's Operation Division prepares the flight roster while it is the Cabin Crew Division that assigns responsibilities to the flight attendants. Depriving the IFS of her responsibility at the workplace in an insulting manner and giving it to her juniors is sheer abuse and unprofessional work,” Maharjan said, “I was the first to come and give verbal information to the Cabin Crew Division after this abuse.”

She said that if the pilot does not want to fly with her, it can be given in writing to the division concerned when the roster is made public, but Captain Pahari deliberately disqualified her from working after reaching Kuala Lumpur.

Captain Pahari also admitted that while returning from Kuala Lumpur that he did not contact IFS Maharjan and ordered another flight attendant to take charge of the cabin crew during the flight. 

“The plane is under the pilot’s command. I have taken the decision using that right. As the leadership of the flight is in my hands, the security is also connected with my security," Pahari said in a conversation with Republica, "The perception of her (IFS Maharjan) was negative towards me. That's why I felt uncomfortable and gave the responsibility to someone else.'' He said that it was not abuse but only a step taken from the point of view of air safety.

Similarly, Captain Pahari claimed that before that he had verbally asked the Operations Division, Cabin Crew Division and Roster Division not to keep IFS Maharjan on the same flight with him. He said, "I said it verbally many times. I didn't want to take any more risk. I didn't want to accept the request from the management. So I took that step. After that, I have given it in writing.”

On the other hand, Captain Ravindra Kumar Sherchan, Head of the Operations Division, and Sumili Subba Jwarchan, Head of the Cabin Crew Division, did not want to comment on the issue saying that the matter is under investigation.




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