Pilots working with Indian airlines may have only half the rest time their peers with international airlines get between flights. This is one of the recommendations in a draft proposal made by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). It is part of a plan to adapt regulations to the rapidly growing Indian aviation industry, which is currently facing a shortage of pilots.
The draft recommends that for every hour of international flight time, pilots get two hours of rest, with a minimum of 10 hours of guaranteed rest. For flights up to five hours, that reduces the guaranteed rest time from 18 hours to 10. This means, for a majority of international flights India's airlines operate, pilots will be getting 44 per cent less rest time than they do under current regulations. For longer flights, pilots will receive far fewer hours of rest compared to their international peers. "It's very frustrating," said an Air India pilot, who did not want to be identified. "At the end of a long flight, both my copilot and I are under a lot of stress, and it's tough to focus." He added if he had less rest time than he currently gets, he would worry about his alertness.
International carriers, including British Airways and Singapore Airlines, allow up to 72 hours of rest, depending on the duration of the flight, to ensure that pilots get at least 10 hours of sleep in between long haul flights, and to offset the effect of travelling through time zones. The rest time does not include the time it takes pilots to get in and out of airports and travel between airports and hotels.
The DGCA proposal also recommends having pilots on domestic flights fly an extra five hours over seven-day schedules, and asking them to take their mandated 24 hours of rest every seven days in cities other than their home-base. Pilots for British Airways get almost a week of rest at their home base every four weeks to recuperate from the effects of jet lag. The Indian Pilots Guild said it had asked the DGCA to reconsider its proposal. "It is distressing to observe that the rules and provisions present in the current and intended policies of the Indian DGCA are significantly deviant from the conservative approach of such regulators in advanced countries," the Guild wrote in a letter to the DGCA.