The aviation regulator has decided to crack down on pilots feigning illness to miss work, less than a week after Jet Airways passengers suffered long waits and cancellations due to a shortage of pilots.
A draft proposal by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Monday asked airlines to prepare a list of pilots calling in sick on weekends, during festivals and industrial protests.
The DGCA will then send these pilots for medical check-ups and ground them if the reports indicate that they were faking the illness, according to the proposal.
“Flight operations are among essential services. Planned disruptions by faking illness is against public interest,” said a senior DGCA official requesting anonymity.
The official added that the safety regulator will collect feedback on the proposal for at least a month before it becomes a rule.
More than 100 Jet Airways flights were either delayed or cancelled over the long Diwali weekend owing to mass sick leave by pilots. The stir, which apparently stemmed from the induction of new automated roster, ended on November 2.
A section of the pilots felt the new roster didn’t adequately account for travel fatigue. “Often our last flights in a day are to critical airfields such as Leh or Kathmandu (where it is critical for pilots to be extra careful),” said a senior pilot who did not want to be named. “It is unfair to expect that a pilot would be fresh after four flights.”
Many pilots fear that the move might jeopardise flight safety.
“Does the DGCA want pilots to be scared of stating their illness? The draft is a catastrophe,” said a retired Airbus pilot requesting anonymity.