Eight reasons for Vistara’s massive flight cancellations

Vistara cancelled 61 flights on Tuesday, only a day after 49 cancellations occurred on Monday

April 02, 2024 04:09 pm | Updated 09:59 pm IST - NEW DELHI

The Air Vistara Boeing 787-9 at the T3 terminal in the New Delhi.

The Air Vistara Boeing 787-9 at the T3 terminal in the New Delhi. | Photo Credit: KRISHNAN VV

Vistara cancelled another 61 flights on Tuesday, a day after it witnessed 49 flight cancellations due to pilot “unavailability”, leading to the aviation safety regulator cracking the whip on the airline and asking it to submit daily figures of cancellations and delays.

The airline announced on Monday that it will temporarily reduce the number of flights to deal with the problem of crew unavailability and also deploy larger aircraft like the B787-9 Dreamliner and A321neo on select domestic routes to combine flights or accommodate more number of customers.

Sources have blamed a multitude of factors for flight cancellations, including discontentment among a section of pilots who have gone on a silent protest following a new pay structure announced in mid-February ahead of its merger with Air India, a lack of adequate buffer pilots, as well as alleged malpractices in pilot rostering.

1. It is believed that First Officers will take a pay cut of ₹80,000 to ₹1,40,000 because of the new pay structure which offers a guaranteed flying allowance for only 40 hours, instead of 70 hours- a formula that was implemented at Air India last year.

2. First Officers will also have to fly for up to 76 hours to earn the salary they were drawing at 70 hours earlier.

3. There are also concerns about delays in co-pilots getting upgraded to a wide body from a narrow body much later than an Air India pilot would in the merged entity. On paper, there is a 3:1 formula, which means for every three Air Indian who gets upgraded to a widebody, only one Vistara pilot will get the upgrade. But this too is not being adhered to.

4. Combine this with high pilot training costs that have sky rocketed in the recent past and massive EMIs younger pilots have to pay, which adds to their financial stress.

5. Moreover, the ultimatum issued by Vistara to its pilots on March 15 to either sign on the contract by the end of the day, or lose their place in the merged entity has further rankled pilots. They feel that the airline should have had a dialogue to mutually renegotiate terms.

6. Sources also say that there are widespread malpractices in the roster planning resulting in “illegal rosters”, which has added fuel to fire. These include backdated changes made to a pilot’s roster to show they were given adequate rest and weekly offs in compliance with regulations. “We are either on standby or flying. There are no offs. Where is our personal or social life.”

7. There are other concerns too, such as inefficiency in training resulting in as many as 20 pilots being on ground and not being utilised for flying. Sources say there is a lot of wastage of trainers’ time and training facility and there are occasions when simulator training is unnecessarily repeated.

8. Many feel that computerised crew scheduling has removed human factor and fails to take into account pilot fatigue as well as the need for work-life balance. Some have recounted instances of annual leaves being arbitrarily withdrawn with just a week to go.

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