The Telegraph
Tuesday , September 18 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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AI pilot strike in the air

New Delhi, Sept. 17: Air India might have to brace for yet another pilots’ strike over longer flying hours.

The pilots of erstwhile Indian Airlines have staunchly opposed a recent directive by civil aviation minister Ajit Singh to follow duty hours set by the DGCA that are longer than what are stipulated in the agreement with their union, the Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA).

“The AI management has issued a new route pattern effective September 16, which the ICPA feels is in violation of their bilateral agreements,” the ICPA said in a statement.

Air India’s operations are just attaining normalcy after a 60-day pilots’ strike in May-June that led to losses in revenue of Rs 600 crore. The ICPA had gone on a 10-day strike last year during the summer peak season, resulting in revenue losses of Rs 200 crore.

Pilots of the narrow body aircraft of Air India are mandated to fly 6-7 hours a day. But the DGCA norms stipulate that they be available for 9-10 hours daily.

Also, Air India cabin crew unions have a lesser flight-time limit at 80-100 hours a month under their union agreement against 125 hours stipulated by the DGCA. Their minimum rest time (time between two flights) is 10-12 hours against eight hours stipulated by the regulator.

A letter notifying that the flights were being operated by ICPA members “under protest and without prejudice to their rights” has been issued to GM operations (in-charge Airbus fleet).

Observing that pilots were not aware of the norms of the DGCA scheme, the ICPA statement said, “In these circumstances any violation on the part of our pilots of the applicable norms is entirely at risk and expense of the management.”

The ICPA also shot off a legal notice to Air India CMD Rohit Nandan asking him not to unilaterally alter the flight duty time limitation (FDTL) rules without consulting the unions, as the prevailing flying norms were governed by agreements between pilots and the management, with aviation regulator DGCA also giving its approval.

According to ministry officials if the new FDTL rules are followed, the airline will generate 22 surplus pilots for narrow-body aircraft and about 100 for wide-body ones till 2015.