Vistara faces several cancellations after pilots report ‘sick’

Pilots learnt to be unhappy over new Air India pay structure as merger progresses

March 06, 2024 02:45 pm | Updated 09:52 pm IST - NEW DELHI

At least 10 Vistara flights out of Delhi and Mumbai alone were delayed on March 6.

At least 10 Vistara flights out of Delhi and Mumbai alone were delayed on March 6. | Photo Credit: V.V. Krishnan

Pilot shortage at Vistara has taken a toll on the airline’s flights, with at least 24 departures out of Delhi and Mumbai delayed on March 6, a day after there were 12 cancellations from the two airports.

The delays and cancellations impacted flights across the network, including some international departures such as to Dhaka, Hong Kong and Dubai, according to data from flight tracking website flightradar 24. Multiple sources said “10 to 15” flights have been cancelled daily for over two weeks since February 18. 

On Wednesday, several angry passengers posted about their flight delays of upto three to four hours on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

“We are UK 801 passengers and waiting for last 3 hours…the flight was to depart at 9 am and still no sign of any movement! Can we know,” wrote one Madhumita Guha about her flight from Delhi to Bengaluru.

“Your flight UK 501 is delayed. Ground staff have no clue about the departure time. Can someone help to get clarity?? People have business to attend!!,” wrote Pranjal Rai, another X user, about his flight from Delhi to Ahmedabad.

A multitude of factors have been blamed, including persisting pilot shortage, worsened by pilots reporting sick to claim unutilised leaves as the financial year end approaches, as well as a “silent protest” from some First Officers against implementation of Air India’s new salary structure at Vistara, which was announced in February. The new formula offers an assured minimum flying of 40 hours from the earlier 70 hours. It could also entail in First Officers taking a pay cut of ₹80,000 to ₹1.4 lakh.

On March 5, the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore gave its conditional approval for Vistara’s merger with Air India, which is expected to conclude by mid-2025.

DGCA’s new duty norms could result in flight cancellations, warn airlines

Pilots are also known to be unhappy about poor roster planning because of the crew crunch, which often leads to their offs being cancelled last minute. Some even called the environment “too toxic”. It is reliably learnt that the DGCA has also recently pulled up the airline for violation of pilot duty norms, indicating that the airline may have pushed its crew to do longer hours than legally permitted.

The unrest at Vistara, follows similar patterns witnessed last year at IndiGo. The Federation of Indian Airlines, which comprises Air India, IndiGo and SpiceJet, has also warned the DGCA that the new duty norms for pilots that offer more rest and reduced night flying and have to be implemented from June could result in flight cancellations because of a paucity of pilots. 

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