“We shudder to think of the kind of desperate and extreme acts that could be triggered off because of the prevailing situation– as has been repeatedly proven many times in the past…. (the moves) pose an extremely serious threat to flight and public safety,” AI’s Executive Pilots’ Association (EPA) wrote to aviation minister H S Puri on Thursday.
The airline has come out with a policy to send employees on LWP for up to five years. On Wednesday, AI had cut the pay of its cockpit and cabin crew with retrospective effect from April 1, 2020, till further orders. While the airline management puts the reduction at 40%, pilots say their flying allowance — which comprises a majority of their total pay — has been slashed by almost 85%.
A captain with 10 years of command on a wide body aircraft will now take home about Rs 2.1 lakh, from Rs 5.5 lakh earlier, say senior pilots. “A co-pilot will now take home Rs 30,000 instead of Rs 1.4 lakh earlier,” said a pilot.
In a series of tweets, Air India said: “…unlike other carriers which have laid off large number of their employees, no AI employee will be laid off. There has been no reduction in the basic pay, DA and HRA of any category of employees. Rationalisation of allowances had to be implemented on account of the difficult financial condition of the airline that were exacerbated by Covid-19.”
“Flying crew will be paid as per the actual number of hours flown. As domestic and international operations expand to reach pre-Covid levels and the financial position of Air India improves, the rationalisation of allowances will be reviewed,” it added.
The EPA has pointed out that over 60 AI pilots have tested corona positive when rostered for operating Vande Bharat Mission flights. “…unlike other wars, the enemy (coronavirus) has accompanied the warriors (crew members) home to affect their family members with devastating effect. At least one pilot has lost a family member to Covid-19 and those of many others have been infected,” the letter says.
Executive pilots, who are the senior most pilots, have “requested that grave risks being taken by the AI pilot‟s and their families to keep this airline afloat are recognised and such desperate, shorts-sighted and discriminatory measures that are being resorted to, in order to look at short term solutions to tide over the precarious fiscal situation are rescinded immediately.”