November 13, 2018 / 2:52 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-Air India sacks operations director after he fails breath tests, to conduct probe

(Recasts to update with statement from Air India)

NEW DELHI, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Air India’s director of operations Arvind Kathpalia, who failed two breathalyser tests before he was scheduled to be a pilot on a London to New Delhi flight on Sunday, has been fired and the airline will carry out an investigation into his conduct, the company said.

The state-owned carrier said in a statement that the breach of Indian civil aviation requirements has “serious implications on passenger safety”. Air India said it wanted to assure its passengers that “under no circumstances” would their safety be compromised.

Earlier, an airline official said that Kathpalia was asked to resign by India’s civil aviation ministry. But in its later statement Air India said he had been relieved of his duties “with immediate effect”.

The official said Kathpalia has also stepped down from the company’s board.

Kathpalia, who said on Sunday he had not been drinking and was the victim of internal feuding, could not be immediately reached for comment on Tuesday.

Amitabh Singh, executive director for training, will take on the operations director’s responsibilities. The investigation into Kathpalia’s behavior will be conducted by the airline’s chief vigilance officer, Air India said.

India’s air safety watchdog had already suspended Kathpalia’s license for three years after he failed the breathalyser tests.

This is the second time Kathpalia has been in trouble over alcohol tests. He was suspended for three months in 2017 for allegedly refusing to take breathalyser tests.

Reporting by Aditi Shah and Neha Dasgupta Editing by Martin Howell and Louise Heavens

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