Akasa Air, the latest entrant in the Indian civil aviation space, has increased its pilot strength by 30 per cent to take it to 450 since April and is aiming to double the number to 900 by 2024-25, The Economic Times (ET) has reported citing CEO of Akasa Air, Vinay Dube. This comes when the airline is fighting a legal battle against some of its pilots who left Akasa without serving the mandatory notice period.
"We have many more pilots joining us than leaving," Dube told ET. "This is the other headline that has been created with the word 'exodus' when that's just absolutely not true. We have one of the lowest attrition rates. In fact, we've got a sufficient number of pilots at various stages of their training with us, enough to fly 30 aircraft, let alone the 20 that we have right now," CEO Dube added.
Promoted by the family of the late investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, Akasa is planning to add more aircraft to its fleet and take it to 28 by March 2024 and add 10-12 planes every year for the next few years, the ET report stated.
The airline had to cancel about 632 flights in August and was cancelling 24 flights per day in September, Akasa's counsel said in a court. However, Dube said that this does not hurt Akasa's overall expansion plans, including operating international flights scheduled to start in December 2023.
Last week, Akasa Air moved the Delhi High Court requesting direction from the aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), to act against the pilots who left the airline without serving the notice period of six months. Additionally, Akasa has filed a civil case in the Bombay High Court against the five pilots, seeking Rs 21 crore as collective damages.
Subsequently, pilots from different airlines attacked Akasa on social media and warned their peers against joining Akasa. Speaking about the recent resignations, CEO Dube told ET, "When a pilot tells us at 8 pm that they're not going to be available to fly the following morning at 9 am, that would have a very significant consumer impact. The travelling public is impacted. Also, when someone does something as selfish as that, it also impacts our existing employees."
People aware of the development said that Akasa had allegedly reduced the payment to Rs 7,500 from Rs 10,000 for every hour flown by a pilot beyond the monthly quota of 40 hours, the ET report stated.
Clarifying on pay reduction, Dube said, "For anybody to really allege that we have reduced any element of the salary is just completely disingenuous. I would love for anybody to show me a paycheck with a calculation that says they have been paid for one hour less or the rate of one hour has been less. So I am denying that (pay or perk cut) categorically … 100%," ET reported.