The pilot and a female flight attendant of DrukAir and a male flight attendant for Tashi Airlines who tested positive for controlled drugs on June 29 are grounded, sources said.

“They are not allowed to fly until further tests show they are clean,” a source said.

The Bhutan Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA) wrote the day after the ad hoc test to the two airlines asking to ground or suspend the individuals until further tests show they are clean.

Numerous monitoring agencies will conduct periodic drug tests for pilots and crew members of the two airlines including engineers hereafter. Information and communications minister DN Dhungyel said that the Bhutan Narcotic Control Authority, Department of Air Transport, and BCAA will conduct regular tests for the employees of the airlines.

The minister said that there were no penalties handed out this time as it is the first time.

“We’ll take appropriate measures as it concerns the safety of the airlines and repeated offenders will be definitely penalised,” the minister said.

Tashi Air chief executive officer, Phala Dorji said that the cabin crew who tested positive was under medication for rashes and cough during the time of the test.

“He has to test with the BNCA and obtain a certificate clearing him of any drug abuse,” Phala Dorji said. “I might seem defensive but in the past three years of his service, he was never associated with anything close to drugs and is a well-mannered person.”

Kuensel could not obtain details of the drugs the three individuals tested positive for as authorities including the minister claimed to not have details of the case. The BCAA director general was not available for comment.

Airlines officials said they implemented the BCAA’s order immediately and the employees remain grounded.

“The individual will only get his salary until he resumes his duty,” an official said.

Officials said that the company service rules prohibit employees from using drugs.

The BCAA tested 78 crew members from the two airlines last week.

Tshering Palden