Air India chairman Ashwani Lohani has slammed the Directorate General of Civil Aviation's (DGCAs) proposal that pilots who report late for flights or report sick are likely to face tough consequences. The chairman of the government-owned carrier sent the letter to the aviation regulator stating that the proposal would have adverse consequences on flight safety operations.
Air India and Jet Airways pilots who are clubbed together under one registered union pointed out some grave errors of the rostering crew and the implications of last-minute flight operation changes that could cause stress to pilots.
The response to DGCA's draft proposal resulted in a strong worded six-page reply on behalf of the pilots association.
The letter, which was reviewed by International Business Times, India said:
"We have been facing a very major issue for the airlines we fly for- that of irregular and last minute flight rostering. Indeed that has become the norm especially for short-haul flights. The correct procedure is that a flying roster is drawn up month wise or every two weeks at the most. However, in the airlines we are employed, the roster is never followed and is changed on a daily basis."
While talking about fleet expansion, the letter also spoke about the lack of accompanying investment, lack of manpower recruitment and training, which leaves the carriers understaffed.
Additionally, the letter also spoke about how the havoc created by the rostering crew impacts the pilots - leaving them stressed.
"The constant last minute changes in the roster subjects pilots to high levels of fatigue making it impossible to plan their rest before the next flight. It also leads to lot of tension and strife with families, which in turn adding to the stress and strain on the pilots," it added.
"Today our members simply cannot plan their rest between flights, never mind their lives with their families... If a pilot does not know when he has to work, he cannot plan his rest, leading to a highly dangerous situation where flight operations are conducted by fatigued and stressed pilots," it said.
The letter alleged that the draft proposal focused on the benefits to operators (plus revenue generation) rather than focussing on public safety. It also questioned why the aviation regulator was silent when Kingfisher employees went without jobs and salaries for a year.
"We request your good offices to carry out a survey of the actual scheduling system."
The civil aviation's draft proposal prepared by director general of civil aviation stated that "any act on the part of pilots wherein they pretend to be sick to escape flight duty or report late to the aircraft or do not undertake the flight even after reporting for flight duty or are unwilling to follow the dynamic roster, which results in last minute of flight disruptions and may imperil the safety of aircraft operations, would be treated as an act against public interest and shall attract enforcement action them."
An aviation analyst quoted by IBTimes India said the draft proposal would result in creating havoc and causing problems not just for pilots but for airlines and the public in general. "This move by the DGCA shows just how ill-conceived and short sighted it is. By suspending licences, airlines would struggle to maintain schedules.
"Delays would ensue, flights would be grounded, it would cost airlines millions in delays, rescheduling flights for passengers and crew. Quite how the DGCA thought this policy would be embraced, highlights the real alarming disconnect it has with airlines and the industry," aerospace expert Saj Ahmad, who is chief analyst at StrategicAero Research, told International Business Times, India.