Airlines urged for timeline to set rules for pilot rest

13 April,2024 07:03 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  Prasun Choudhari

New rules will provide enhanced rest to pilots who have complained of fatigue

Rules announced on January 8, increased the weekly rest period for pilots from 36 hours to 48 hours

Key Highlights

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has requested airlines to provide a timeline for implementing the new pilot rest duty rules. This move follows a request from the Delhi High Court last week for a tentative date for the implementation of revised duty time norms for pilots. The court was addressing a writ petition filed by several pilot unions challenging the DGCA rules on pilot's duty hours.

One prominent case is that of the Federation of Indian Pilots (FIP), which has over 5,000 members. "In light of the observations made by the honourable court during the aforesaid hearing, you may kindly indicate the timeline required to prepare a roadmap for implementation of the revised Flight Duty Time Limit rules and timeline for subsequent implementation of the same," DGCA stated in similar but separate letters to airlines dated April 10. The letter was disclosed by sources from an airline to mid-day.

"Late last month, DGCA put the new rules in indefinite abeyance after facing severe resistance from airlines that warned the rules will force them to cancel 20 per cent of the flights at the peak of the summer travel season," said a senior pilot who works as a flight instructor for an airline.

"The reversal of DGCA's position came within days after the regulator itself acknowledged the fatigue of pilots as a concern. The DGCA had mentioned that the multiple incidents of pilot deaths due to punishing schedules should serve as urgent wake-up calls," the senior pilot and flight instructor added.

Sources from FIP said, "DGCA's decision to withhold the new rules came due to the Ministry of Civil Aviation deciding that the cancellation of flights during the peak summer season would lead to public furore immediately after the takeover of a new government."

The Federation of Indian Airlines, a group that includes IndiGo and Air India among its members, stated in a media release that there wasn't enough consultation with the industry before implementing the rest rules for pilots. It added that the rules were more restrictive than anywhere in the world and would make the Indian aviation industry less competitive than other countries. Another senior pilot working with a prominent airline said, "Airlines indulge in malpractice while preparing their duty schedules, leading to mental stress and cumulative fatigue for a significant portion of the crew."

"Health and safety of the pilots cannot be prejudiced for the commercial benefit of the operators," the pilot added. "The latest revision by the DGCA has made the revised regulations a dead letter of the law as it has effectively granted operators discretionary powers in implementing the revised rules," the FIP wrote in a letter to Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia after DGCA had put the rules in the back burner.

Expert comment
Capt. Mohan Ranganathan said, "Airlines are the ones controlling the DGCA which is why no stringent action has been taken. The rules are loaded towards the airlines and not to the pilots' benefit. All the rules that the ministry and DGCA have formed have several grey areas which the airlines can use causing a severe distressing situation for the pilots affected".

No, of members of a pilot union seeking a timeline

"Exciting news! Mid-day is now on WhatsApp Channels Subscribe today by clicking the link and stay updated with the latest news!" Click here!
delhi high court delhi airport mumbai airport mumbai mumbai news
Related Stories