Napping IndiGo airlines worker arrives in Abu Dhabi in the cargo hold

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has launched an investigation after a baggage loader working for IndiGo fell asleep in a cargo hold of an Airbus A3320 in Mumbai and arrived in Abu Dhabi.

We have heard cases of people hiding behind the baggage section of aircraft to travel, but this case is different.

IndiGo VT-ISV : Photo by Eurospot

December 12, 2021, IndiGo flight 6E-1835 was scheduled from Mumbai to Abu Dhabi. One of the baggage loaders fell asleep after loading up passenger luggage within the shipment compartment of the plane. The plane soon took off from Abu Dhabi, and the napping worker was found in the cargo area upon aircraft’s unloading in Abu Dhabi airport. The sleepy youngster woke up too late and was still inside the shipment dangle when the jet took off. Even when the cargo hold was heated and pressurized, the stuck loader was found safe on arrival in the UAE. The man later flew back to Mumbai on a return flight.

DGCA’s statement regarding the incident

According to the director-general of DGCA, Arun Kumar, the aircraft loader for IndiGo, had relaxed in baggage compartment one and dozed off. The shipment door was shut once the headcount was marked. The worker wasn’t discovered until the aircraft landed in Abu Dhabi and the airport authorities conducted his medical examination. Despite a chilly three-hour flight in the cargo hold, he wasn’t injured, and his physical condition was stable and normal. The local authorities passed him requisite clearances and returned him back to Mumbai as a passenger.

Why do similar incidents occur?

Baggage handling is tiring work that demands high physical exertion and unsociable hours on long shifts. Heavy lifting and long shifts tempt baggage handlers to take naps while working. Airlines generally deploy 2  to 3 loaders per flight (varies on narrowbody and widebody aircraft) to handle passenger bags into the plane and a baggage handling supervisor to ensure all employees are accounted for after loading of other cargo bags is fulfilled.

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It’s not recommended to take a nap on the job, especially on a ready-to-depart airplane, as it can result in very serious situations. Being stuck in a cargo hold, where the temperature isn’t well-maintained as a passenger cabin, is pretty claustrophobic. Waking up on an hour-long flight in the cargo hold of a jetliner is no picnic for anyone.

Sometimes there’s a lot of downtimes that can often leave workers exhausted. On the other hand, waiting for the passenger bags to show up often creates a break where most baggage handlers fall asleep. General baggage handling operations suggest checking inside the bin before the door is shut and checking up co-workers to each other. Some airplanes do have a handle inside the cargo compartment door to open it from inside, but it can’t be opened after the hold is pressurized.

Inability to notice themissing employee, lack of proper surveillance in the airport, and overlooking employees after loading are also the irresponsible actions behind this incident. Flight in-charge and safety concerns are often question marked in such incidents. Headcount is a common practice in the airport to have a heightened focus on employees’ positions regarding where they should be before the aircraft takes off. Besides aircraft tasks, employees should also be accounted for at the completion of aircraft turnaround.

IndiGo spokesperson reported that the airline is aware of the incident and has been investigating the matter. DGCA is probing the lapse relieving everyone involved of duties while the investigation is being carried out regarding the incident.

Other similar incidents

Other similar incidents have occurred in the past. This is not the first time a baggage handler has been trapped in the cargo hold due to falling asleep. In 2018, an admittedly intoxicated American Airlines baggage handler apparently took a nap inside the cargo hold of Boeing 737 and ended up flying from Kansas City, Missouri, to Chicago. He didn’t sustain any injury despite a pressurized cargo hold and wasn’t charged as well.

About Abu Dhabi International Airport

Abu Dhabi International Airport is a significant hub of IndiGo connecting Abu Dhabi-the city of architectural wonder where one can satisfy their wanderlust to cities in India such as Delhi, Mumbai, Kochi, Amritsar, etc. United Arab Emirates has eased entry restrictions along with other ever-changing pandemic-time requirements, allowing IndiGo airlines to be back in the UAE skies.

IndiGo is an Indian budget carrier headquartered in Gurgaon, India that operates more than 1500 flights daily to an extensive network of more than 195 destinations.

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