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6 months to one year: DGCA plans to double notice period of pilots

If DGCA has its way, commanders will have to serve a notice period of one year before resigning

Arindam Majumder & Aneesh Phadnis  |  New Delhi 

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Pilots in India may soon need to serve a notice of one year if they resign from their current job. Indian regulator Directorate General of Civil (DGCA) has revived a year-old proposal of reviewing its over a decade-old rule of having six months' notice period for pilots. 

In a draft proposal, which has created furore among the pilot community, the regulator has sought to make it mandatory for commanders to serve a notice period of one year and six months in the case of the first officer. Currently, pilots have to serve a six-month period upon leaving their job according to the regulations of CAR Section 7.

Industry insiders have raised eyebrows over the timing of the proposal as it coincides with market leader IndiGo’s announcement of starting a new fleet of 50 ATR-72 for regional operations. Air India’s regional subsidiary Alliance Air has alleged that is poaching their pilots with a higher salary. "is trying to poach our pilots and engineers of the ATR fleet through higher salary, if pilots resign en masse, it will impact the Regional Connectivity Scheme as we are the biggest player there," an Alliance Air spokesperson said. spokesperson Ajay Jasra refuted claims saying that the airline is not poaching pilots from rivals.

The regulator’s reasoning for this proposal says that groups of pilots are resigning without providing any notice period to airlines which forces the airlines to cancel their flight at the last minute. "Sometimes, such an abrupt action on the part of the pilots is in the form of a concerted move, which is tantamount to holding the airline to ransom and leaving the travelling public stranded. This is a highly undesirable practice and goes against the public interest, the resultant cancellation of flights causes inconvenience and harassment to the passengers," said the draft notice.

Three private airline pilots that Business Standard spoke to expressed surprise, saying that there was no such exodus of pilots at any airline which could have spurred this move. "People pay for their own training and most of the airlines have a bond of at least three years with pilots, this is a violation of labour law and don’t exist in any market across the world," a first officer of a private airline said.

In its notice, the regulator also said that it takes around nine months to train a pilot for a particular type of aircraft and an exodus could jeopardise an airline's flight plans. "Pilots are highly skilled personnel and shoulder complete responsibility of the aircraft and the passengers. They are highly paid for the responsibility they share with the airlines towards the travelling public and are required to act with extreme responsibility," the regulator said.

"It takes years to prepare a doctor. Should that mean that hospitals have one-year notice for doctors," a pilot who serves as a commander in a private carrier asked, adding, "It’s another coordinated effort by few airlines with blessings from "

A senior commander of Air India said that pilots union of the airline will send representation and legal notice to When approached chief BS Bhullar said that it was a draft act and open for stakeholder comments. “The change in notice period is for pilots in command only, let us wait for comments,” he said.

Threatened by poaching of pilots by new airlines, like Vistara and AirAsia India, and foreign airlines from the Middle East, under the banner of the Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA), incumbent airlines had approached the government to increase the notice period after resignation for pilots to a year. At present, it is six months. After there were huge protests from the pilot’s community, the proposal was shelved.