Debt-ridden Air India (AI) has been underutilising a majority of its pilots and overpaying a significant number of its senior commanders.
The issue came to light after Hindustan Times accessed a copy of the airline's data on the total number of hours flown by its Mumbai-based Airbus commanders in 2012.
The data compiled for flight duties conducted between January 2012 and December 2012, showed that AI did not fully utilise the services of 51 of its 82 commanders in the city.
The airline pays a fixed monthly salary for 72 hours to its domestic fleet pilots irrespective of the number of hours flown by them.
On an average 51 commanders (62.19% of the narrow body fleet captains) flew less than 72 hours, according to the data.
Worse, close to 30 pilots were assigned flight duties above the stipulated 72 hours. As a result these pilots earned fat over time allowance in addition to the fixed salary.
An AI pilot performing flight duty above the stipulated 72 hours is paid 1.5 times of the hourly rate up to 85 hours in a month.
Every hour recorded above that earns them double the normal rate.
"It is a massive scam. The airline is unable to clear salaries for months but it has been needlessly spending lakhs on paying over time allowances to a select executive pilots," said an AI official requesting anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
An AI spokesperson sought a day to respond to Hindustan Times' query on how the airline management allowed loss of revenue owing to poor crew scheduling.
Civil aviation minister Ajit Singh said that his ministry would look into the issue.
The revenue loss also puts a question mark on the airline's turnaround plan.
"The government has begun will be investing Rs. 3000 crore in the loss-making carrier. But if this kind of gross revenue loss is not stopped the airline might never see a turnaround," said another senior AI staffer requesting anonymity.
The issue has come to light when AI is witnessing widespread unrest owing to a 25% pay cut introduced last month.