April 16, 2024

Vistara sources said only 24 flights were cancelled Wednesday compared to the 52 a day before

New Delhi:

Hours after Vistara hinted at a probable end to its crisis, saying the flight schedules are expected to normalise over the weekend, pilots have pointed to fatigue issues which could have direct safety ramifications. “Pilots are flying at the edge of their maximum flight duty limitations. This is causing major health issues and everyone falling sick frequently,” sources said.

Vistara saw a surge in flight cancellations as the airline struggled with a shortage of pilots. An increasing number of its pilots have called in sick, protesting a revised salary structure ahead of the full-service carrier’s merger with Tata-owned Air India.

Sources, however, denied “coordinating together and taking mass sick leave”.

“Everyone is just tired from flying. The new FDTL (Flight Duty Time Limitations) rules should have given us some relief but as expected that is also not happening,” they added.

Last week, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation or DGCA deferred the implementation of the revised flight duty norms for pilots that were to be effective from June 1. The revised norms have reportedly been deferred for some time to have wider consultations.

The new norms provide for more rest time for pilots and seek to alleviate pilot fatigue.

Top officials in the airline, including CEO Vinod Kannan and senior members of his management team, held a virtual town hall with striking pilots Wednesday evening where discussions were held on new contracts and rostering issues.

Company sources said the pilots had been promised a course correction to address concerns in the wake of the merger with Air India. This, sources said, will include improved growth potential once the merger is complete and better rostering of pilots, which is expected by May.

Flagging major health issues due to “flying at the limits of the maximum duty limitations”, the pilot sources said: “Everyone is falling sick frequently. Pilots are already exceeding their max sick leaves in a year and ending up in leave without pay”.

They also criticised the airline for “trusting software more than their pilots”. “Pilots have been complaining about fatigue to the management. Management relies on the Boeing Alertness Model (BAM) and says the flight is safe, so you should have nothing to complain about. They trust software more than their pilots,” he said.

Everyone is “angry at the new contract, but we all knew it was coming sooner or later,” they said.

Earlier, company sources said that almost 100 per cent of the pilots accepted the new contract. Pilots expressed no protest during the virtual town hall, they added.

The airline had said on Monday that it was forced to cut a number of flights due to the pilot shortage and was using some of its larger aircraft to “accommodate more passengers.”

Vistara sources said only 24 flights were cancelled Wednesday compared to the 52 a day before

Pilots have been complaining that their cost to company (CTC) had been reduced in the new contract, in which they are mandated to fly 40 hours as opposed to 70 hours earlier. Sources, however, said under the new structure pilots were incentivised to fly more, and could earn more than they did earlier.

The civil aviation ministry said yesterday it was monitoring the developments while the aviation regulator sought daily information on flight disruptions from Vistara.

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