Air India pays pilots part of pending dues, avoids imminent strike


MUMBAI: Air India management on Friday paid its pilots the pending flying allowances for the month of March.
The pilots of the erstwhile Indian Airlines had on Thursday threatened to go on strike if the payment of dues were further delayed. However it now appears that the pilots might not go on a stir, although allowances for January and February are still pending.
May is the peak travel season for Indian domestic market and a pilots’ strike during this month would not only hit the airline hard, but also affect the passengers as airfares would sky-rocket. Air India holds about 15 per cent of domestic market share.
The Indian Commercial Pilots Association, the union of pilots of the erstwhile Indian Airlines, who operate the airline’s A320 flights on domestic and medium-haul international routes, had threatened to not undertake any international layover flights if their allowances are not paid. If that did not elicit a favourable response from the management, they had threatened to stop flying.
A highly placed airline official said that the delay in payment occured because of the new salary structure brought into effect by the Dharmadhikari Committee report early this year. “It took us a while to get the changes incorporated, since we didn’t want any errors in the salary payments,” the official added.
The new salary structure came into effect from January 1. A senior A320 commander said, “The management has been citing issues in its implementation till date. However it had promised to pay the pending arrears for the month of January and February on May 1, which was further postponed to May 5. Since the management again missed the deadline, the letter about the strike was issued,” he said, adding that the allowances for March were paid on Friday.
There were certain errors in the allowances calculated for the months of January and February after the airline switched to the new salary structure and these have to be worked out again.
Apart from this, there are other contentious issues that need to be resolved. Like, the Dharmadhikari report asks for pilots to be graded according to their years of service in the airline. “The pilots of the erstwhile Indian Airlines have yet to be assigned their proper grades as per their seniority,” he added.