With their pay, including some allowances, delayed for over 2 months, pilots say they owe it to their employed better halves for putting food on the table

As the state carrier continues to withhold the salaries of its employees, many of the latter say they are fortunate to have working wives. In these cash-strapped times, their spouses are the ones taking care of the family's expenses, including the spending of their unpaid hubbies. 

Flighty pay: Air India pilots carry placards during their strike in May
earlier this year. File pic

For the past two months, Air India has not released the salary of its employees. Even the flying allowance that contributes to a major portion of pay has been unpaid since June. In addition to this, the airline has stopped paying the layover allowance, which is an advance given to pilots flying passengers to foreign countries.

"This is the worst experience that I have had in a career of 11 years with Air India. No salary, no allowance, and now, even the layover allowance has stopped. We have to pay for our food. We also have to pay moneychangers for currency conversion when we make foreign trips. The company keeps on giving lessons on hard work. But it does not understand that it is not possible without a salary that comes on time," said a senior pilot with the Maharaja.

Most pilots thanked their wives for running the show during this bad phase. "I am thankful that I have a working wife. Unlike me, she gets her salary on time or I would have defaulted in paying my kids' school fees and the premium on my house. She even takes care of my expenses and gives me extra money when I leave for abroad," an Air India commander said requesting anonymity.

A co-pilot, who earns Rs 1,50,000 monthly including allowances, said, "My salary and allowances are pending for two months. There was this delay even before that. My wife, who works with a consumer goods company as a manager, is taking care of my sundry expenses."

Grateful they may be, but glad they are not. Salaries long due is not a phenomenon unknown to the work force of the national carrier.

Only, it got worse in the last one year, they said. MiD DAY had earlier reported ('Unpaid Air India pilots put your lives at risk', June 22) about the mental trauma of Air India pilots due to the non-payment of salaries.

In a letter to the management, AI pilots claimed that the repeated non-payment of their salaries has been causing financial and mental distress, a distraction while they are on the job.

The issue of salary delay was even addressed by PM Manmohan Singh in Parliament on August 3. "That Air India is in serious difficulties is an open secret. Air India doesn't have resources to pay the salaries. But the government will find the ways and means to pay the wages of Air India employees soon," Singh had said.