Airline crew the world over are known for their impeccable bearing and spotless uniforms, but not so our Maharaja’s pilots. Many pilots of national carrier Air India (AI) have been brazenly flouting the operational manual considered the rule book for crew.
Male pilots of AI are not permitted to sport long hair or beards, but many sport pony tails, beards and stubbles. Some even wear ear studs on duty, which is banned as per rules.
“Individuality in uniform is not permitted, but some AI pilots wear their uniform any way they desire. So you have some pilots wearing black ties and others who wear the company-issued blue ties,” a Delhi-based pilot said.
Other airlines take the common uniform so seriously that their female cabin crew are required to wear the same type of ear studs.
“The attire of many pilots occupying business class seats while travelling as staff on duty leaves much to be desired. They share the premium cabin space with business and industry leaders and create a bad impression. This was one of the reasons pilots were barred from travelling on business class in 2009,” said a senior Mumbai-based captain.
This privilege was later restored.
While AI did not respond to an email from HT, a senior official said that the airline had very stringent rules — though they were not enforced. “When the operations manual is so specific it even mentions which side of the shirt one shall wear the identity card, how can one say we lack strict norms? The problem is implementation.”
The AI manual says it is the responsibility of commanders “to ensure strict observance of the regulations”. However, this is not done, a pilot said. The aviation ministry now plans a stricter implementation of manual rules.
“Apart from being staff of AI, crew members represent India in foreign countries. There should, therefore, be no room for criticism or unfavourable comparison with crew of other international operators in the manner of wearing uniforms,” the manual says.