Air India Pilot Union requests resumption of flight pay

Radhika Bansal

02 Oct 2021

The Indian Pilots' Guild (IPG), the Air India Boeing pilots' union, wrote to Rajiv Bansal, the new aviation secretary and their former chairman and managing director (CMD), on Friday, October 1, requesting that their pay cuts be restored, citing a significant reduction in Covid-19 cases.

The news comes as the government nears completion of the divestiture of its entire stake in national carrier Air India, it's subsidiary Air India Express, and a 50% stake in ground handling firm Air India SATS Airport Services Pvt. Ltd. (AISATS).

(Image Courtesy - India Today)

They also requested that the authorities reinstate the ‘full boards facility' (three-time meal allowance for pilots on domestic and international layovers), which the company had previously announced would be discontinued via email.

Keeping in mind the improvement in the Covid-19 pandemic situation, competent authorities decided to discontinue full board with effect from midnight on September 30, 2021, within India and 11 other countries, including the United States and Canada, according to an email sent to pilots on Thursday night.

“With the advent of the pandemic, our layover sustenance allowance was drastically cut to approximately one-third of its original sum resulting in a 60–70% cut. Furthermore, our flying allowance was cut by 40%, only in theory, in practice, this cut surmounted to 70-80% due to the significant reduction in the number of flying hours allotted to each pilot,” read the letter.

(Image Courtesy - NDTV)

The pilots reiterated that they operated the Vande Bharat flights and emergency evacuation missions despite their ‘harsh’ pay cuts.

The pilots' union also criticized the airline's management for its decision to retract the “full board" facility, which is providing all three meals to the pilots while on domestic or international layovers. 

IPG urged Bansal to reverse the full-board cut and also reinstate their wage structure. IPG pleaded with the management to reverse the pay cut ahead of the completion of the divestment process. 

“In the interest of the travelling public, we have ensured that to date not a single flight has been disrupted. A large number of our colleagues contracted Covid-19 abroad as a result of operating these flights. Many serious cases led to hospitalization and long term medical grounding but most tragically, a few of our colleagues even lost their lives to the disease. Yet the airline continues to operate with negligible concern for employee welfare.It is imperative to remind you once again that the above two cuts have affected us severely wherein our total emoluments have been reduced by over 60% as compared to the rest of the workforce who have had the luxury of working from home through the pandemic and yet enjoyed the benevolence of a gentle pay cut to the tune of 10%.Eighteen months along, we once again highlight that the pay cut has been disproportionately implemented upon pilots. It is shameful that despite our continuous support and with the steady recovery of the aviation industry our pay scales continue to be held back and basic facilities continue to be withdrawn. Our members have endured extreme hardship due to the unfair pay cut and as the economy and the aviation industry continue to recover it is becoming more and more difficult to sustain one's self leading to a state of desperation.Upon the eve of privatization, it would be righteous to stop the injustice and acknowledge the unending support of our members to the airline, to the MOCA and the Indian passenger. We strongly urge you to reverse this pay cut and immediately reinstate our rightful wage structure."The Indian Pilots' Guild (IPG)

Employees asked to vacate quarters

Air India has also requested that its employees vacate their quarters within six months of the airline's disinvestment. In a letter to Air India's Chairman, the Ministry of Civil Aviation stated that during a meeting earlier this month, it was decided that Air India employees can stay in their residential colonies after divestment for six months or until the property is monetised, whichever comes first. The term "disinvestment period" refers to the time period following the transaction's closing date.

(Image Courtesy - India Today)

It further added that all retired employees still residing in the colonies who have already availed of the permitted period of retention might be served an eviction notice to vacate. If anyone has been permitted retention of accommodation beyond four months, the permission will be withdrawn and they will be advised to vacate immediately.

Beyond the disinvestment, employees in possession of AI residences will not be paid house rent allowance (HRA), lease rental allowance or housing allowance.

Challange Ahead

The new owner will have to deal with a variety of issues. To begin, the new owner will have to deal with Air India's massive workforce — for example, the airline employs approximately 1,500 trained pilots and 2,000 aircraft engineers to maintain the fleet. An old Air India employee said that transitioning from the work culture of a government-owned public sector enterprise to meeting the expectations and work standards of a private sector owner will be difficult.

Air India, which is being divested by the government, comprises Air India, which primarily operates on international routes, Indian Airlines (rebranded Air India after the merger in 2007) and Air India Express, which was created in 2005 and primarily connects Kerala to the Gulf region.

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IndiGo promoters feud - No direction to the firm in the arbitration award

Radhika Bansal

02 Oct 2021

The final arbitration award in the matter involving the spat between IndiGo promoters Rahul Bhatia and Rakesh Gangwal has been issued by the London Court of International Arbitration, but no directions have been issued to InterGlobe Aviation.

IndiGo, the country's largest airline, is owned by InterGlobe Aviation.

InterGlobe Aviation said in a regulatory filing that it has received the final arbitral award, dated September 23, issued in the arbitration proceedings in which it was also named as a respondent.

InterGlobe Enterprises Ltd (IGE) and Bhatia brought the case against Gangwal, the Chinkerpoo Family Trust, and Shobha Gangwal (RG Group).

Left - Rahul Bhatia, Right - Rakesh Gangwal (Image Courtesy - Hindu Business Line)

On October 1, 2019, the IGE Group had submitted the request for arbitration to the London Court of International Arbitration.

"According to the award, no directions have been issued to the company. The award has issued directions to each of the AG Group and IGE Group about the relief sought by them against each other," InterGlobe Aviation said in the filing on Friday.

The award also directs the reimbursement of the company's costs incurred as a result of the IGE Group's arbitration, according to the statement. It was impossible to obtain specific information about the award.

The company was named as a respondent in the arbitration proceedings, but neither the IGE Group nor the RG Group sought any monetary compensation from the company.

(Image Courtesy - Bloomberg Quint)

According to the filing, the IGE Group sought various reliefs from the RG Group, including compliance with the shareholders' agreement and the company's Articles of Association (AoA), as well as damages.

"The AG Group also sought certain reliefs against the IGE Group, including to carry out all required steps and actions, provide consents and assistance to remove certain transfer restriction provisions from the company's articles," it added.

In July 2019, Gangwal wrote a letter to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) alleging that the airline's corporate governance standards are failing and that some questionable related-party transactions have taken place between IndiGo and Bhatia-owned InterGlobe Enterprises. These allegations were denied by Bhatia's IGE Group.

InterGlobe Aviation settled the SEBI case in February 2021. (Image Courtesy - Business Standard)

InterGlobe Aviation, on the other hand, settled the SEBI case in February 2021. The company that operates IndiGo airlines, InterGlobe Aviation, paid INR 2.10 crore to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to settle a pending case, and SEBI ended adjudication proceedings against InterGlobe Aviation as a result of the settlement.

IndiGo offered to settle the case "without admitting or denying the findings of fact and conclusions of law" and filed a settlement application with SEBI, according to the order.

InterGlobe Aviation's settlement terms were presented to the High-Powered Advisory Committee on January 25, 2021, and the committee recommended that the adjudication proceedings be settled for INR 2.10 crore, according to SEBI.The two promoter groups own 74.84% of the stock as of March 31, 2021, while the public owns 25.16%. Bhatia and his associates own 38.20% of the company, followed by Gangwal and his associates, who own 36.63%.

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Emergency landing made by an IndiGo flight at Bhubaneswar Airport

Radhika Bansal

01 Oct 2021

An IndiGo flight from Kolkata to Hyderabad (6E 946) made an emergency landing at the Biju Patnaik International Airport here due to a medical exigency, airport sources said. The flight to Hyderabad was diverted to Bhubaneswar due to a medical emergency relating to the breathing problem of a 59-year-old man, they said.

The flight made an emergency landing around 6 PM on Thursday, September 30. The patient, identified as Jayabrata Ghosh, was travelling along with three family members, the sources said.

(Image Courtesy - Odisha Bytes)

Ghosh was attended by a doctor in the flight itself who detected cardiac problems and suggested that the patient be immediately admitted to the nearest hospital for further medical assistance.

From the airport, the patient was shifted to a hospital in critical condition by an ambulance of the Airports Authority of India. He was accompanied by IndiGo staffers. The flight took off for Hyderabad after the man and his family members were deboarded.

In a similar incident on September 6, a Delhi-bound IndiGo flight made an emergency landing in Guwahati after it suffered a bird attack in its engine.

The aircraft suffered damages in one of its engine blades in the air, forcing the pilots to return to the original airport immediately. All passengers and crew on board were safe.

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The aviation sector plays a great role in the economic output of the country

Radhika Bansal

01 Oct 2021

For every INR 100 invested in civil aviation, the country receives an economic output of INR 325 and for 100 new direct aviation jobs, 610 more indirect jobs are created, civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said on Thursday, September 30, highlighting the need for developing the sector in India.

International business, investments, trade and jobs cannot be generated without connectivity, the minister said. Therefore, India must become an aviation hub to facilitate better connectivity, he argued.

He was speaking at the 116th annual meeting of the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The sector was already contributing close to 3.5% to India’s GDP in an environment where just 10-11% of the population travelled by air, Scindia said.

“The creation of an aviation hub in India is extremely important. Increasing long haul flights means we have to get more wide-bodied aircraft. And this will be a challenge in the days to come but aviation hub has to come back on our agenda as a country, as a ministry and as an industry.And what that tells us is that the runway is immense. And we are today, just about entering the taxiway of the runway, no pun intended. The potential of this sector is tremendous.We are going to build aggressively, connect aggressively. And not only the metros but places like Darbhanga, places like Jharsuguda in Odisha, Kadapa, and many more."Jyoiraditya Scindia, Union Minister for Civil Aviation

With 20-40 million more middle-class families expected to start travelling by air in the near future, there is a great opportunity for growth in the sector. In the next 5-6 years, more people could be travelling by air in India than by air-conditioned trains, he added.

The national infrastructure pipeline for civil aviation was close to INR 90,000 crore and the government was going to build this infrastructure “aggressively.”

Cover Picture Credit - Cirium

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Chennai Airport to get parallel runway

Radhika Bansal

30 Sep 2021

In what could be a game-changer for Chennai airport, the Airports Authority of India is mulling constructing a parallel runway to reduce congestion and improve capacity.

Sources said a few weeks ago, at a high-level meeting, an idea was proposed detailing why Chennai airport should have a parallel runway. “A team from the headquarters will carry out a feasibility study in a few months on where it can be constructed, how much land needs to be acquired, what will be the capacity enhancement and the pros and cons of building it. Only based on the conclusions of the report, it will be decided whether or not to go ahead with this plan. One of the options we have considered is to build it close to the 30-end of the secondary runway, extending towards the Tambaram side. It will be implemented only if it is safe,” a source said.

Runway of Chennai Airport (Image Courtesy - The New Indian Express)

According to sources, Chennai airport needs to get airside capacity enhancement. For the last two years, the airport has been lagging behind the other metro airports such as Delhi, Bengaluru and Mumbai in terms of air traffic and passenger traffic growth. At present, there are two runways i.e. the main runway and a secondary runway and their capacities are limited, which causes congestion. The cross runway operations are not carried out now.

The source further added that the team is planning to build a parallel runway close to the 30-end of the secondary runway, extending towards the Tambaram side, but it will be constructed only if it is safe.

In 2016, a plan was chalked out to build a parallel runway and 1,084 acres of land was also notified by the state government. However, later on, the idea was dropped as the residents living nearby opposed the plan. Sources believe that Chennai airport needs a parallel runway as the city does not have a second airport.

Parallel runway at Delhi Airport. (Image Courtesy - Fortune India)

While Delhi had parallel runways already, Bengaluru became the first in south India to have independent parallel runways. On March 26, 2021, Kempegowda International Airport scripted history when its northern runway was re-opened for operations along with its southern runway.

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Long-haul international flights of Indian carriers need a boost

Radhika Bansal

01 Oct 2021

The Centre has to look to put in place certain systems to boost long-haul international flights of Indian carriers to places such as Europe and South America, Union Minister for Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia said on Thursday, September 30.

"We have to aim to make India a robust aviation hub where we can fly more passengers from India to the world and vice versa," he said during an event organised by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

(Image Courtesy - The New Learn)

Scindia said connectivity to Europe, North America, Canada, Mexico, South America and parts of Central Asia has to be boosted using the hub-and-spoke model.

"Therefore, the creation of a hub in India is extremely important. Increasing long-haul flights means we have to get more wide-bodied aircraft.Increasing long-haul flights will be a challenge in the days to come but aviation hubs have to come back on our agenda as a country, a ministry and an industry.On the one side, the country has to concentrate on the domestic travel side, while on the other, it also has to think about the international travel site.And we have to look at putting in place systems that allow connectivity on long-haul travel to places like Europe where we have just one or two (Indian) airlines catering to these destinations."Jyotiraditya Scindia, Union Minister for Civil Aviation

Scheduled international passenger services have been suspended in India since March 23, 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, special flights have been operating since July last year under bilateral "air bubble" arrangements between India and approximately 28 countries.