Hundreds of passengers flying Air India might be stranded at Indian airports as a large section of the airline’s pilots has threatened to ground operations over pending pay.
On Thursday, the Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA), an AI pilots’ union that operates the domestic fleet and short haul international flights, told its 800-odd members to turn down flight duties from May 10 unless pending flying allowance was paid.
Flying allowance comprises almost 80 per cent of a pilot’s salary.
According to the union, the AI management had agreed to revise the flying allowance for these pilots at par with those who operate twin aisle planes on long haul international routes. But despite committing to settle the difference in pay for January, February and March by May 5, the airline management failed to do so.
The disparity in pay was created after Indian Airlines was merged with Air India in 2011.
Hundreds of AI fliers could pay the price for the agitation as the airline still caters to about 16% domestic passengers in India. With most flight schedules packed during the summer holidays, this could turn into a management nightmare for the airline.
“If the agitation happens now, people wouldn’t get a seat on another airline for even a fortune,” said a travel agent requesting anonymity.
The ICPA’s warning note also accused the AI management of not paying layover allowance to crew operating international flights.
“Layover allowance is paid in dollars to international crew to pay for food and other essentials. For three months, we have been spending from our pockets,” said an Airbus commander.
AI chairman and managing director, Ashwani Lohani however refuted the claims, saying the requested allowance was being paid.
“Flying allowances are being paid. However if they talk like this, it is very sad for the company, especially when we are in the process of reviving Air India,” he said.