India’s aviation regulator’s proposed punitive action against pilots who have reported ‘sick’ is a ploy to hide the country’s shortage of pilots, particularly commanders, three pilot unions told the regulator on Monday.
The six-page response from the unions, representing the views of 3,000 pilots, said 98% Jet Airways pilots were on duty during the disruption-ridden Diwali weekend, which was a pre-cursor to the ‘draconian’ draft issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). “How could the unavailability of a mere 2% of pilots lead to “scheduling issues”? This itself proves that adequate numbers of pilots were not available for standby duty, which reflects a chronic shortage of pilots in the airline,” read the draft, asking the DGCA a pilots-versus-fleet survey in every domestic airline.
The group comprising pilots from Air India and Jet Airways said the shortage stems from cost-cutting measures across airlines.
On November 11, the DGCA issued the draft threatening to ground pilots permanently if found feigning illness. It added the airlines would send doctors to pilots’ homes every time they call in sick.
“How can a doctor diagnose if a person has a headache or stomachache without believing the patient?” the pilots’ note questioned the regulator. It said doctors on airlines’ payrolls are likely to give reports favouring the employers.
“We are simply horrified the DGCA proposes to permanently debar a pilot’s flying licence for pretending to be sick. This would only lead to sick pilots pretending to be fit through fear of such action, hugely compromising and endangering passenger safety. How is this in public interest,” asked a senior Boeing commander, requesting anonymity. The unions concluded the draft should be scrapped. The DGCA chief BS Bhullar did not respond to HT’s calls.