Two pilot unions at Air India have claimed that there is a shortage of pilots to operate the airline’s long-haul and ultra-long haul flights.
The concerns raised by the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) and Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) also come against the backdrop of the Tatas-owned airline recently cancelling and rescheduling certain flights to and from THE North American region due to crew shortage.
In a joint letter written to Air India’s Chief Human Resources Officer Suresh Dutt Tripathi on December 13, the unions said, “…we cannot maintain the printed planned roster due to a shortage of pilots, as CMS (crew management system) does not have standby pilots.” There was no immediate comment from Air India on the letter.
While IPG represents pilots of wide-body planes, ICPA represents those operating narrow-body aircraft.
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According to the unions, the number of leave denials and cancellations for pilots is also staggering.
Further, it has questioned the airline’s decision to hire expat pilots for the Boeing 777 fleet at a CTC (cost to company) that is “at least 80 per cent higher with significantly higher leave benefits than what is being provided to its long-serving pilots.” “Since early 2022, the management has steadily but strongly enhanced the flying schedule. The under-crewed pilot workforce enthusiastically supported these expansion plans by accommodating constant roster changes and repeated pullouts, even on off days,” the letter said.
Tata group took over loss-making Air India in January this year and has been working on expanding services as well as the fleet.
“Though management might refute the charges of crew shortage in public, the reality is there for everyone to see. On all fleets, and especially on the 777 fleets, pilots have flown well over 90 hours per month consecutively,” it said.
They alleged that “more often than not, the schedule is managed, keeping the paperwork in order while the regulatory FDTL (Flight Duty Time Limitation) may have been undermined… we will be forced to take steps by involving regulatory authorities to end this.” Besides, the pilots’ unions have flagged that the airline is yet to restore certain components of the pay structure that were there before the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have aided in bringing Air India to the number one position in the on time performance rankings, yet there is no appreciation by the management. At the very least, a company with such major expansion plans should have restored the pre-Covid overtime rates,” it stated.