Akasa Air has not submitted any proof of flight cancellation due to the abrupt resignation of 43 pilots, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had told the Delhi High Court in its affidavit on Friday.
The regulator categorically denied that the petitioner (Akasa Air) provided any documents or reasons to it (the respondent) in respect of flight cancellations because of the pilot resignations.
This is in contrast to Akasa Air’s statement in the high court on Tuesday that more than 1,000 flights were cancelled from August 1 to September 19, due to the abrupt resignations of 43 pilots.
Akasa had told the court that it has cancelled 24 flights per day and operates 120 flights daily. This accounts for 20 per cent cancellations in a month.
However, the DGCA said that according to the details submitted by Akasa, 1.17 per cent of flights were cancelled in August.
The regulator said, according to the monthly traffic data, which has the details of flight cancellations owing to technical, commercial, operational, adverse weather conditions, and also on account of miscellaneous reasons, the airline has not provided any reason for the cancellations.
The airline had told the court that it is expecting to cancel approximately 600-700 flights in September if the resignations continue.
“We have (already) cancelled 600 flights in August,” the airline’s counsel said, requesting the court to empower the DGCA to enforce the rules regarding mandatory notice period. The DGCA told the court that the rules of mandatory notice period have been challenged in another case. It is pending in the same court, “restraining the DGCA from taking any action against the parties.”
It said that the parties (in an employment contract) “are free to fix their notice periods according to their mutual understanding” and DGCA “has no role to play in it.”
During the last hearing, counsel for the DGCA Anjana Gosain had told the court that the regulator can’t take any action on this matter as the rules (regarding the mandatory notice period) have already been challenged by the pilot unions in an ongoing case.
Pilot unions, who were also present in court, opposed Akasa Air’s petition stating that the matter regarding the notice period is not a regulatory matter but a contractual one between the pilot and the airline.
The regulator said it does not have any power or delegated authority to interfere in any employment contract. So, it cannot interfere in the employment agreement between the airline and the pilot.
Based on the above submissions, the DGCA asked the court to dismiss the present petition (of Akasa) with costs as the case of the petitioner is devoid of any merit.
“The DGCA cannot interfere in the employment agreement between the airline and the pilot, which itself contains the mechanism of termination of pilots. And, it would be in the interest of the parties that the petitioner airline (Akasa) complies with the mandate of the answering respondent (DGCA) to maintain a limited schedule if it does not have enough pilots to maintain operations of the flights,” the regulator submitted.
Akasa Air is currently in a “state of crisis” and it “may shut down” due to abrupt resignations, the carrier had told the high court on Tuesday.
With Akasa Air sounding an emergency alarm, the Indian aviation sector is undergoing immense turbulence right now.
Go First went insolvent in May this year after stating that about half of its 54 planes were grounded due to delay in engine supply by US-based Pratt & Whitney (P&W).
Go First’s revival is still unsure as its lessors want their planes back and the matter is now in court.
SpiceJet, another budget carrier, continues to deal with cash crunch even as it is dealing with multiple court cases regarding money owed to lessors, former promoter Kalanithi Maran and financial services firm Credit Suisse.
Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora had told the DGCA to file its submissions in the case, which it filed on Friday.
The court had also allowed two pilot unions — Indian Pilots Guild and Federation of Indian Pilots — to file their reply. The arguments in the case have been concluded and the judgment is reserved.
At present, Akasa Air maintains a fleet comprising 20 B737 Max aircraft, while Air India Express possesses 26 B737 planes.
Air India Express is expecting to receive approximately 50 additional B737 Max planes from Boeing by the end of 2024. Consequently, the airline has been actively recruiting pilots for the past few months.
According to aviation analytics firm Cirium, Akasa Air is operating 754 flights weekly this month, marking an 8 per cent reduction compared to July.