Air India pilots and cabin crew would now have to work as much as their peers in other private airlines as the civil aviation ministry has decided to bring their flight duty time at par with what aviation regulator DGCA has mandated for the industry.
As per an agreement of about 700 erstwhile Indian Airlines pilots, unionised as Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), their maximum is restricted at 6.5-7 hours, much lower than 9-10 hours stipulated by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in its Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR), revised in August 2011.
Meanwhile, Air India cabin crew unions have a lesser flight-time limit at 100-80 hours for a month as per their union agreements, compared with 125 hours stipulated by the DGCA. Their minimum rest time (time between two flights) is 10-12 hours as opposed to eight hours stipulated by the regulator.
"The civil aviation minister, Ajit Singh, has taken a very serious view of the fact that they (unions) follow its own rules and wants the regulator's CAR to prevail, especially at this difficult time for the airline. The duty time for cabin crew will also be standardised," a senior official from the ministry told ET.
Higher flying-time is expected to both increase utilisation of fleet and manpower, and decrease human resource costs for a long time to come.
"With this change in FDTL, it has been assessed that there will be 22 surplus pilots for narrow-bodied aircraft and about 100 for wide-bodied ones till 2015," the official said.
Among other perks for ICPA pilots is the two-day rest at five-star hotels whenever they make flights to nearby regions like South-East Asia or Gulf, while other airlines make a quick return back instead of making such expenditures. The flight and duty time limitations (FDTL) for the other 700-odd pilots belonging to the union Indian Pilots Guild, which went on a two-month strike from May this year, will also be brought to the regulator's standards, wherever relaxed.
The ministry's attempt at standardisation of FDTL is especially focused to have sufficient manpower as 27 new Dreamliner aircraft join AI's fleet over the next four years.
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