Vistara CEO extends ‘apology’ for taxing schedules during townhall with pilots

Vinod Kannan seeks to address a big chunk of the problem pertaining to roster mismanagement resulting in high number of working hours for pilots, and stressful combination of flights

Updated - April 04, 2024 12:44 pm IST

Published - April 03, 2024 12:29 pm IST - New Delhi

Vistara has been battling massive flight cancellations following unrest among pilots ahead of its merger with Air India. File

Vistara has been battling massive flight cancellations following unrest among pilots ahead of its merger with Air India. File | Photo Credit: Reuters

Battling massive flight cancellations following unrest among pilots ahead of its merger with Air India, Vistara CEO Vinod Kannan attempted a rapprochement by holding a townhall with them during which he extended an “apology” to them for taxing schedules and sought their “support” in resolving concerns.

Mr. Kannan sought to address a big chunk of the problem pertaining to roster mismanagement resulting in high number of working hours for pilots, and stressful combination of flights, and assured them that the airline will take measures to ensure better work-life balance even if the airline had to take a hit commercially.

Also read | Eight reasons for Vistara’s massive flight cancellations

“We will take steps to make roster less taxing in a more rigorous fashion,” Mr. Kannan said during a 25-minute townhall where he also fielded questions directly from pilots.

He said since March 31 the airline had seen 150 flight cancellations and 200 flight delays of over two hours but said that proactive cancellation of flights on April 3 and 4 was expected to bring back normalcy. He said these cancellations would continue till the end of the month to create a pilot buffer.

He dismissed that a section of pilots reported sick to protest against the new pay structure announced in mid-February and said that “it was not the case”. Instead he sought to blame ATC delays, groundings due to bird hits and engine failure, and hectic roster where pilots had exceeded their maximum limit of permissible flight hours as well as a lack of a pilot buffer, which he said “snowballed” into a large number of cancellations.

Instances of pilots calling in sick were common at the airline during the end of the financial year as crew want to utilise unused leaves, which he said was “the final straw that broke the camel’s back” in an attempt to downplay the impact of the protest.

On the contentious issue of the new salary structure, he accepted that while some pilots were unhappy, he said that it was in the interest of the “wider community”, and that it would continue to be in vogue. He however invited pilots to write to him with their concerns on the pay structure and offered to revert.

There were many questions fielded to him on the issue of seniority list of Vistara pilots in the merged Air India on which he assured that the formula already devised and shared with the pilots according to which they have been assigned an upgrade turn would be implemented even if there was a delay in the merger. He “assured” pilots that the Vistara management would continue to work with Air India to ensure this list was implemented.

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