The Directorate General of Civil Aviation
(DGCA)'s new rule of making one year notice period
compulsory for commanders will lead to cases of industrial conflict and severely impact the expansion plan of new airlines, says the aviation industry.
In its reasoning, the regulator said that it has noticed a trend of pilots
resigning without prior notice to the airlines which forces disruption in the airline’s schedule leading to harassment of passengers. The move is believed to have after established airlines said that their wage cost was rising as they are forced to hire expat pilots
due to demand-supply mismatch. “Indian carriers are being forced to hire expat Captains due to a critical demand-supply imbalance, with cost of hiring increasing, it will ultimately lead to higher airfares,” Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA) representing IndiGo, SpiceJet, Jet Airways
and Go Air
But executives of new airlines have termed this as an attempt by the entrenched airlines to create hurdles in their growth plans. “This is grossly unfair and defies every concept of free market policy, it will severely impact our growth plans,” said a senior executive of a private airline. Among the new airlines, Vistara
is scouting the market for Boeing pilots
as it is in the final stages of negotiation for a 100 aircraft order. Its sister concern AirAsia India
plans to add atleast 10 aircraft in the next one year. A senior AirAsia India
executive said that the regulator has succumbed to the demands of the airline lobby and has ignored the interest of the civil aviation
sector. “So now the regulator is telling me that a new airline like us cannot hire experienced commanders even if we are willing to offer a competitive salary,” the executive said. Both Vistara
and AirAsia India
spokesperson declined to comment.
Aviation experts said that DGCA’s move defies logic and is not based on the demand-supply concept. “It reflects poorly on the institutional functioning at DGCA.
I am highly concerned with the lack of transparency at DGCA
regarding such strategic decisions which can have a major commercial outcome for some market participants,” Kapil Kaul, CEO South Asia of aviation consultancy firm CAPA said.
He added that it will impact expansion, forward planning and increase costs. “All the startup airlines including possible strategic investors considering entry due to the 100 percent FDI rule will be significantly impacted. Such arbitrary decision making will create unnecessary entry barriers.”
Business Standard approached the airlines to understand the reason for such a demand. SpiceJet, IndiGo, Jet Airways
and Go Air
spokesperson did not respond.
A pilot trainer of a private airline who has also worked in the Gulf said that the move will impact the ability of a pilot to raise his salary at a time the aviation industry
is in its fastest phase of growth. “We are left to the mercy of our employers, it demoralises many and a demoralised pilot is terrible news for a sector which prides on its safety,” he said. Kaul of CAPA concurred saying that the move will lead to industrial conflict and tension.
In May 2016, after facing repeated safety incidents US-based Allegiant Air decided to conduct a pilot satisfaction survey. It threw up shocking results. Out of 500 respondents, only two said that the morale was high among the pilots.
An overwhelming 300 said that the current scheduling system leads to fatigue. The survey prompted the airline management to agree to a new contract for the pilots
that assured better pay, proper rest hours. It made the company a better place to work in and successfully retain pilots
at a time of crunch. The Indian airline honchos and the regulator can take a leaf out of Allegiant’s books.