Hundreds of Air India (AI) domestic fliers could face last-minute flight cancellations or long waits at airports as pilots might not turn up for duty. On Wednesday, the Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA), AI pilots’ union, told its 800-odd members to shun flight duties on days left blank on the roster.
Unlike private airlines, which put out monthly flight rosters specifying weekly offs for pilots, the AI automated roster does not mention day offs, alleged the union.
“We would like you to explain as to how a pilot will take care of the needs of their family, which may also include medical requirements for ailing, elderly family members if no weekly off is planned. You are creating a perfect concoction for another disaster to happen as a stressed pilot is unsafe in the cockpit,” read the ICPA directive, a copy of which is with HT. The airline caters to nearly one of every five domestic fliers.
Pilot sources said the airline has been creating short ad-hoc flight duty schedules, causing frequent flight delays. “Airlines across the globe clearly specify your off days and days when you are on standby. Even the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) rules state that pilots should have planned weekly leaves,” said a retired Airbus commander.
AI chief Ashwani Lohani said that the airline’s executive director was sorting out the issue.
“It is evident through your actions that you are deliberately trying to instigate ICPA towards industrial unrest by violating the DGCA-approved AI flight duty rules scheme by issuing a revised roster removing the planned weekly off which was printed in the initial roster,” stated the ICPA letter.
AI sources said that some pilots were recently given charge sheets for turning down flight duties at short notice.