Air India’s turnaround plan may be heading into fresh turbulence with a section of its pilots not cooperating with the management.
While the government has in-principle agreed to an equity infusion of R30,000 crore into the ailing national carrier by 2020, it comes with several riders.
While the government will play its part by releasing the funds in stages, the airline also has to prove that it means business.
Improving on-time performance and cutting costs are some of the benchmarks that would have to be implemented.
What has irked aviation ministry officials is the latest directive issued by Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), the union of former Indian Airlines pilots, directing its members not to follow a particular flight procedure introduced to reduce fuel consumption.
“The airline had recently modified the acceleration altitude in the take-off segment for the Airbus fleet,” an AI official said. This, the official said, is in line with international practice and is followed by many reputed carriers.
But ICPA refused to accept the procedure citing safety concerns.
“If other airlines worldwide find it safe to follow this procedure, we wonder why only some pilots of AI are finding it unsafe?” said an aviation ministry official.
The airline’s management pilots who fly Airbus planes have already started following the new procedure that saves fuel and improves engine life. “This procedure has been adopted by many airlines worldwide including Lufthansa. ICPA is resisting it for no valid reason. If they fly a new-generation aircraft the old fashioned way, what is the point?” asked a senior management pilot.
“Our objections are safety related,” said an ICPA pilot.