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Air India pilots join Vistara crew in voicing concerns over fatigue, pay

The pilots said they're made to rack up maximum flying hours, face difficulties in having leave approved and deal with unstable rosters, according to the letter dated April 4

Air India

The work culture at Tata’s airlines is “hostile and intimidating” and some crew reported feeling threatened

Bloomberg

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By Ragini Saxena

Pilots at another Tata Group-owned airline joined crew at Vistara in voicing concerns about being overworked and underpaid, threatening to prolong the travel chaos that’s plagued India this week.

“The concerns expressed by the Vistara pilots are not isolated incidents but rather indicative of systemic issues” across Tata’s aviation business, the Indian Pilots’ Guild, which represents crew at Air India Ltd., wrote in a letter to Tata Chairman Natarajan Chandrasekaran. The letter was also addressed to the chief executive officers of Vistara, Air India and low-cost unit Air India Express.

The pilots said they’re made to rack up maximum flying hours, face difficulties in having leave approved and deal with unstable rosters, according to the letter dated April 4. The work culture at Tata’s airlines is “hostile and intimidating” and some crew reported feeling threatened, which poses a significant safety risk, it said. 

The group asked Tata’s top management to open a dialog with pilots and address their grievances. Representatives for Air India and Tata didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg News’ requests for comment on the letter.

Until now, Vistara has been the focus after the airline, co-owned by Tata and Singapore Airlines Ltd., canceled more than 140 flights since Monday as pilots called out sick en masse over pay cuts and fatigue concerns. While Vistara CEO Vinod Kannan addressed concerns on Wednesday, the revelation that crew at India’s flag carrier share the same complaints is a major blow to Tata’s five-year plan to transform Air India into a world-class airline.

The complaints also signal the challenges that lie ahead for the merger of Air India and Vistara, which is expected to be completed by year end. One of the major concerns of Vistara’s pilots was that their guaranteed pay will be cut to 40 flying hours from 70 hours a month to align its salary structure with Air India. 

Vistara’s flight cancellations continued, with another 13 scrapped so far Friday. At the meeting with pilots earlier this week, Kannan assured crew that the carrier will improve its roster to give adequate rest time and, if required, scale back its network to ensure buffer in case of delays. He also told pilots that they would get opportunities to earn more after the merger with Air India. 

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First Published: Apr 05 2024 | 2:04 PM IST

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