Thursday, December 03, 2020

Pilots Ask For Resumption Of Old Salary, Will Airlines Play Ball?

Two mails - one from a pilots union and the second from an anonymous aviator - on successive days have brought back the spotlight on what once was the probably the most coveted resource in aviation.

The mails, lamenting the salary cuts and 'unnecessary stress' on pilots, surfaced even as airlines have talked about improving traffic numbers and hopes of reaching pre-COVID-19 levels by the first quarter of 2021. But pilots complained their salaries remain low, and there doesn't seem to be any attempts to normalise them.

The first mail, on November 30, was from Air India pilots unions - Indian Commercial Pilots' Association and Indian Pilots' Guild - addressed to Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri. Requesting an 'urgent' meeting, the unions said that they "fail to understand why barbaric austerity measures apply only to Air India pilots."

Pointing out to Puri's earlier remarks that domestic traffic will normalise by the end of the year, the letter says that while other airlines have started rolling back austerity measures, "the wage cut for Air India pilots further increased from October 2020."

The second mail was sent the following day, by an anonymous SpiceJet pilot, to the airline's Chairman and Managing Director Ajay Singh. Alleging that their contracts were changed post the COVID-19 pandemic and that they had no option but to sign them, the writer who called himself SpiceJet Pilot, said that the pilots are "getting 10 to 30 percent of their original salary."

While both the letters soon made the rounds of social media platforms, some questioned the anonymous letter. "There is no way to even establish whether its a pilot who has written it, or some outsider," a senior executive from the industry said.

A SpiceJet spokesperson strongly refuted the allegations. In a statement to Moneycontrol, the spokesperson said:

"An anonymous letter claimed to be written by a ‘SpiceJet pilot’ has been brought to our notice. This is a mischievous and deliberate attempt to defame the airline. Our pilots, like the rest of our employees, have stood solidly behind the airline in these troubled times and we, as a team, have been able to exceptionally sail through these tough times and are rebuilding ourselves. There is absolutely no discontent among our pilots. Employee salaries have risen steadily as the passenger traffic has grown. This is an attempt to malign the airline and mislead the media through completely baseless, misleading material."

Sources in the industry confirmed that the airline indeed has raised salaries, or partially taken back the cuts, for a section of its employees. But these may not include pilots.

02/12/20 Prince Mathews Thomas/

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