In a bid to stop the rapid exodus of pilots, the cash-strapped Kingfisher Airlines has allegedly asked its cockpit crew to pay back salaries for six months as a pre-condition to accepting their resignations. The move goes against the aviation regulator’s recent comment that pilots are spared from serving the mandatory six-month notice period if an airline has failed to pay them.
“We have not received salaries for the past four months. On submitting the resignations, the airline is demanding the six months’ pay citing the aviation regulator’s rule,” said a senior Kingfisher pilot, requesting anonymity.
While the airline management did not respond to HT’s questions sent over email and text messages, the chief of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said it would not take action against pilots quitting the airline as long as they are unpaid.
“The civil aviation requirement (CAR) that makes serving a sixth-month notice period mandatory has a provision which states that if a pilot is unpaid the person is free to leave the airline,” said Bharat Bhushan, director general, DGCA.
Many Kingfisher pilots are planning to refuse flight duties from Monday. “Another private carrier is offering us three months’ salary as a joining bonus but we are unable to quit because Kingfisher’s management is demanding compensation,” said another Kingfisher pilot.
Industry sources said pilot protests might not affect operations immediately because the airline is operating a curtailed schedule of flights at the moment. “They have enough management pilots to operate flights for a couple of days,” said a senior operations official.
Passengers could be grounded if the protests continue. Sources at the Mumbai airport said Kingfisher operations could be affected again owing because oil companies may stop supplying jet fuel in the next few days.