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HindustanTimes Sun,20 Apr 2014

Pilots vs AI again: this time on transfers to cut flight delays

Tushar Srivastava, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, December 05, 2012
First Published: 21:15 IST(5/12/2012) | Last Updated: 01:41 IST(6/12/2012)

The management and pilots of national carrier Air India (AI) could be headed for a fresh face-off.

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AI management has proposed shifting “excess” pilots belonging to erstwhile Indian Airlines (IA) to southern bases from northern India, which is facing a shortage of pilots.

The move is aimed at cutting “wasteful expenditure” and bringing down delays. AI officials said there are more than 40 excess IA commanders based in Delhi.

Recently, the national carrier transferred more than 60 pilots belonging to erstwhile AI from Mumbai to Delhi to meet similar operational requirements.

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“In the last couple of months several flights originating from bases in the South had to be delayed due to non-availability of pilots, mainly commanders,” an official source said.

When flights get delayed and the duty period gets extended as a result, a pilot may not be in a position to operate his next flight on schedule as he has to follow the minimum period of rest prescribed by the regulator.

Other airlines tackle such situations by replacing the crew originally scheduled to operate with an alternate set of crew on standby duty.

However, AI is left with no other alternative but to delay flights so that the same set of crew can operate the flight after availing the minimum required rest.

On the other hand, if a pilot stationed in Delhi is rostered to operate a flight from the South, the costs go up dramatically as the airline pays for his hotel accommodation, gives him hotel allowance and pays him an additional flying allowance for his travel to and from Delhi.

Likewise, the airline is also finding it difficult to post the newly trained pilots who are flying the Dreamliners to Delhi.

Pilots, however, say the problem is because of under utilisation of pilots and mismanagement. “Some pilots fly over 90 hours while there are many who fly around 30 hours a month. We will oppose any plan to transfer pilots,” said an office bearer of the Indian Commercial Pilots Association, an association of IA pilots.

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