At least seven IndiGo pilots were allegedly found using offensive language over salary issues on a frequency used for emergency communications, sources said on Thursday, April 28.
On April 9, these pilots were allegedly found venting their ire over low salaries by using offensive language on 121.5 MHz frequency, which is used for emergency communications only for the aircraft in distress.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has launched a probe into the matter. IndiGo is yet to state the development, the sources said.
Frequency 121.5 MHz, used for emergency communications, has to be compulsorily monitored by the air traffic controllers who are in the vicinity of the aircraft. For air-to-air communication among the pilots of different aircraft, 123.45 MHz frequency is used, which is not monitored by the air traffic controllers.
A few days after the incident, the IndiGo flight operations department sent a memo to pilots reminding them to maintain discipline during radio transmission.
”Radio transmission is one of the measurable parameters of professionalism and discipline in an airline and IndiGo prided itself on being near-exemplary in this aspect. Unfortunately in the recent past there have been acts of misuse of radio transmission which have been identified and are being suitably dealt with.”Rakesh Srivastava, Chief Pilot, Quality Assurance and Operations Safety, IndiGo
Misuse of the 121.5 frequency is dealt with seriously in developed aviation markets like the US where the first violation can cost the perpetrator as much as USD 19,246, with ongoing violations fines running to as much as USD 144,000.
Rules of US aviation regulator FAA state that in such cases, the violator’s radio equipment can also be confiscated, and possible criminal charges filed.
Days before the incident, IndiGo had suspended a few pilots who were planning to hold a strike on April 5 against the pay cuts effected during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the peak of the pandemic, the airline had cut the salaries of its pilots by as much as 30%.
On April 1, IndiGo announced its decision to increase the salaries of the pilots by 8%, saying another 6.5% hike will be implemented in November in case there are no disruptions.
IndiGo is India’s largest passenger airline with a market share of 55.5% as of January 2022. Since its inception in August 2006, the airline now has a total fleet of 276 aircraft. IndiGo has a total destination count of 97 with 73 domestic destinations and 24 International.
Aviation Minister urged for the justice
Meanwhile, on Thursday, 28 April, the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) wrote a letter to Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, urging him to deliver justice for the pilots “who have been forced to resign following their suspension from Indigo airlines.”
“The human resources department of Indigo airlines has reacted in a manner which is highly arbitrary and has suspended the pilots initially. In a mafioso manner they have then proceeded to force the pilots to tender their resignation. The pilots had no option but to comply thereby furthering the feeling that there is no fair representation for the pilots.”Airline Pilots Association (ALPA)
The association noted in its letter that the pilots were suspended for discussing the formation of a trade union for adequate reception of their concerns.
The association also apprised the minister of “the exploitation of pilots in general that is taking place in various airlines in India post the pandemic.”
“Fatigue risk management is another sore point that the airline industry needs to urgently implement to mitigate the risk present in flying in a large country daily,” the ALPA letter added.
The ALPA alleged that the human resources department of IndiGo is colluding with its counterparts in other airlines to prevent these pilots from seeking employment elsewhere. The ALPA is not a union of IndiGo pilots. It consists of former pilots of various Indian carriers.
In its letter, the ALPA requested Scindia to intervene urgently to save the pilots who went above and beyond the call of duty during the COVID-19 pandemic.