‘I’m Just 21, And COVID Took Him Away’: Air India Pilot’s Daughter

“He did not get COVID-19 vaccine,” said Sumedha, daughter of Air India Pilot Captain Amitesh Prasad.

4 min read

Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam

Pilots are very easily forgotten as frontline workers. I wish I still had him. I have just started my life beyond university, I was a student all my life. I’m 21 and I wish... he was present for all my milestones.
Sumedha Amitesh Prasad, daughter of Air India Pilot Captain Amitesh Prasad

21-year-old Sumedha, lost her father Captain Amitesh Prasad to COVID-19 on 9 May. Her dad was an Air India Pilot for almost 15 years. He tested COVID-19 positive after he returned to India on a flight from San Francisco on 15 April 2021.

Prasad started showing COVID-19 symptoms soon after landing. Initially, he quarantined himself and later got admitted to a hospital.


'He Was Not Vaccinated'

<div class="paragraphs"><p>In photo: Captain Amitesh Prasad.</p></div>

In photo: Captain Amitesh Prasad.

Photo courtesy: Sumedha Amitesh Prasad.

My father was the first one (Air India pilot) to die due to COVID-19 while he was on a flight (in the line of duty). It’s not easy to fly multiple time zones, multiple airports.
Sumedha Amitesh Prasad, daughter of Air India Pilot Captain Amitesh Prasad

Sumedha added that her father was "somehow not wanting to go on the San Francisco flight on which he contracted COVID-19" which was very unlike him. "Maybe his inner instinct kicked in," she said.

Sumedha conceded there was a bit of resistance from the family in letting Captain Prasad fly on the Vande Bharat mission flights when Air India started them in May 2020.

In the start of the Vande Bharat mission flights, nobody was comfortable, including my father (with flying). One thing that we all knew as a family that at the end of the day it was his duty. And if he is given a duty to bring supplies and bring back stranded Indians, then he can’t back out on the grounds that he is scared.
Sumedha Amitesh Prasad, daughter of Air India Pilot Captain Amitesh Prasad

Sumedha thought that like many others her father will be able to recover from the disease even if he got infected with COVID-19.

We never thought my father would die due to COVID. The worst we thought was that he would fall sick or be hospitalised. At most, we felt he would be in quarantine and get better.

Captain Prasad did not get even a single dose of vaccine, Sumedha told The Quint.


Rs 10 Lakh As Compensation, Not Enough

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Captain Amitesh Prasad.</p></div>

Captain Amitesh Prasad.

Photo courtesy: Sumedha Amitesh Prasad.

Between 9 and 14 May, Air India lost three pilots to COVID-19, Captain Amitesh Prasad, Captain Sandeep Rana and Captain GPS Gill.

ironically, the Indian Pilots' Guild had written multiple letters in April 2021 to the Health Minister Harsh Vardhan and to the Air India's Chairman and Managing Director, requesting them to start in-house vaccination for Air India crew members.

We...urge you to activate the medical department and organise an in-house Vaccination Drive for the aircrew on top priority... we are the only group of essential workers left to fend for ourselves in regards to vaccination. Should this neglectful attitude towards us continue, we would be forced to make difficult decisions in the interest of our and our family’s safety.
Indian Pilots’ Guild letter to Air India CMD on 28 April 2021

Air India started vaccination drives for its crew members on 15 May, six days after Captain Prasad died.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Captain Prasad with his wife, 15-year-old son and daughter Sumedha.</p></div>

Captain Prasad with his wife, 15-year-old son and daughter Sumedha.

Photo courtesy: Sumedha Amitesh Prasad.

Air India announced Rs 10 lakh as compensation for the family of each of the pilots who died due to COVID-19. But the Indian Pilots' Guild has demanded higher compensation for the deceased pilots families in a letter to Air India sent on 22 May 2021.

The Guild also pointed out in the letter that the Maharashtra and Delhi governments are paying Rs 50 lakh and Rs 1 crore respectively, to the families of frontline workers killed by COVID-19.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Captain Amitesh Prasad with Sumedha.&nbsp;</p></div>

Captain Amitesh Prasad with Sumedha. 

Photo courtesy: Sumedha Amitesh Prasad.

Captain Prasad's wife is a homemaker, while Sumedha got her first job in Canada on the same day that she lost her father.

The moment I got the job I messaged a person in the hospital. I told him to inform my father about my job if he is conscious. I knew he would be happy and proud, it would help him recover. One hour later I got a call that he is no more. He couldn’t even know that I got the job. It was terrible.

Sumedha says her father had promised to give her a lot of advice when she got her first job, but knows that will not happen now. She adds that she will miss her father at the various milestones of her life.

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