The aviation regulator allowed Air India and Jet Airways to increase their pilots' duty hours without studying how this might influence their health and alertness, a Right to Information application filed by a pilots' union has revealed.
When asked if it had consulted its own or independent specialists before doing this two years ago, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation replied that it had taken the decision based on discussions with senior managers of the airlines.
Normally, airlines cannot ask pilots to work more than nine hours at a stretch in a day and not more than 30 hours a week.
In February 2008, the regulator amended this rule to allow these two airlines to increase their pilots' duty hours in "extraordinary situations."
But the airlines appear to have asked for the amendment purely for commercial reasons, the regulator's response, which came last month and of which HT has a copy, reveals.
To another query, the regulator replied that Air India said it wanted it in order to "facilitate the smooth scheduling of flights" while Jet wanted it because its international operations faced "acute crewing problems."
Pilots of both airlines say they have regularly been working beyond their shifts since the rule came into effect. Both airlines declined to comment, while the regulator's head, Nazim Zaidi, did not respond to two text messages.