An already short-staffed Air India is struggling to maintain its schedule even as its employees demand more rest between flights; several flights are getting delayed because crew members are turning up late
At a time when Air India is looking to hire more personnel, the national carrier is also at loggerheads with its current employees who allege they are being forced to work without adequate rest. This ongoing feud has left Air India passengers with a bitter taste in the mouth for the past week, however, with as many as 45 flights being delayed or rescheduled.
While in some cases, technical snags were cited as the official reason for the delays, the interruption in services is mostly due to crew members turning up late for flights, sources said. There have been 32 delays in the domestic leg alone, and another 13 on international routes. But crew members said they are not to blame for the delays, as they are not getting enough rest.
“A passenger thinks the airline crew is at fault, but it is actually the seniors who harass the crew members, after which we don’t turn up for flights,” said a crew member close to the developments. A senior staff member explained, “Crew members are being threatened and harassed by some senior officials who deny them basic rights accorded by the DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation), such as weekly/bi-weekly off and rest periods at international layovers.”
A letter from the airline dated April 17 (mid-day has a copy) ordered the crew to be punctual to work. The letter stated, ‘Of late a lot of Air India flights are being disrupted and delayed due to crew adopting a confrontational attitude. All crew members are advised to follow DGCA CARs (civil aviation requirements) in totality and not pick and choose them to suit their personal convenience.’
In addition, the letter read, ‘Strict disciplinary action will be taken against crew members who resort to such measures which bring disrepute to the airline and inconvenience to our esteemed passengers.’ Senior Air India officials then wrote to the DGCA to allege that their seniors were unofficially forcing them to work without any rest time.
This dispute has gone on for some time. Earlier this year, crewmember Aniket Kapoor had filed an Right To Information (RTI) query (mid-day has a copy) over the issue. The DGCA replied that no amendment or dispensation in any rule had been given to Air India.
Like all other airlines, the national carrier would also have to provide its crew weekly or bi-weekly offs at the home base, and also ensure that it provided at least 22 hours of rest prior to international flights any crew is detailed for.
The minimum rest period of 22 hours applies to flights of up to 11 hours, while flights stretching up to 14 hours require 36 hours of rest before, and flights longer than 14 hours need 48 hours resting time. According to Air India staff, however, they are not even getting the mandatory 22 hours of rest between flights.
Worst affected routes
AI 667 (Mumbai-Thiruvananthapuram)
AI 677 (Mumbai-Delhi)
AI 866 (Goa-Delhi via Mumbai)
AI 774 (Mumbai-Kolkata)
AI 050 (Mumbai-Hyderabad)
AI 342 (Mumbai-Singapore)
AI 985 (Mumbai-Muscat)
AI 131 (Ahmedabad to London via Mumbai)
The Air India Spokesperson told mid-day, “Air India had advertised recruitments of crew on March 14 and the process is still going on, after which the issue will be solved.”