Air India (AI) could be headed for fresh trouble. Sixteen pilots of AI Express — the low-cost international arm of the national carrier — have reported sick in past two days, with 14 reporting sick on Thursday.
A Delhi-Sharjah flight had to be cancelled on Wednesday and officials said the situation could get worse. The aviation ministry has also been briefed about the developments.
Sources said the reason behind the sudden increase in “sick leaves” is a turf war between pilots from erstwhile Indian Airlines (IA) and AI (as they existed in the pre-merger days) for getting to fly the premium Boeing 787 Dreamliners.
Out of the 64 pilots selected for 787 training, 32 belong to IA. AI pilots are livid with the management’s decision with some terming it as a “bombshell” that could “seriously hurt their career progression”.
Traditionally, AI used to be the international arm and IA was the domestic arm, which also handled flights to neighbouring countries.
“Flying on international long-haul routes, on which 787’s are likely to be used, is our preserve. AI pilots have been flying the Boeing family aircraft and it is easy to convert from one Boeing aircraft to another whereas IA pilots mostly fly Airbus aircraft. Conversion from an Airbus to a Boeing aircraft is a lengthier process,” a senior Captain said.
In fact, the India Pilots Guild, an association of AI pilots, has officially protested to the management in the past against its decision to train IA pilots for 787’s.