New Delhi: Air India is planning to reduce its wide-body aircraft pilot workforce by about 250 and this is among the decisions that will be placed before its board of directors which is meeting in Mumbai today (Tuesday).
Currently, while 424 pilots affiliated to the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) are on strike, the airline is seeking its board’s permission to hire afresh through walk-in interviews. Official sources confirmed that eventually the total number of wide-body aircraft pilots would be reduced by 250. “We have about 750 wide-body pilots right now, including executive pilots and IPG ones. We plan to right-size their number (executive plus others) to 500 in all. So obviously, recruitment will not fill all vacant posts.”
This is a clear message perhaps to striking pilots that a job guarantee on their return may no longer exist.
IPG pilots have been on strike since 7 May and unless they join work unconditionally, no end seems to be in sight to the current impasse. Air India, meanwhile, continues to operate a truncated international schedule, flying about 11,000 passengers a day against 13,000 in the pre-strike period.
Sources said the financial implications of a Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) and implementation of the Dharmadhikari report on merging the human resources of the two erstwhile airlines will also feature on the agenda of the board meeting. The company has estimated a one-time payout of Rs 200 crore for offering VRS to 5,000 employees. “We will seek the board’s opinion on whether this payout should be made from Air India’s own revenues. Why should the government’s equity infusion be diverted to offer VRS?” sources said.
Another important issue which the board will take up is agents’ commissions that the airline pays and whether these should gradually be reduced to zero. “Everyone is moving to a zero commission, transaction fee based-regime so there is no reason why Air India should continue to pay its agents. Travel agents should charge passengers, not the airline. IndiGo, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines — everyone has stopped paying anything to travel agents,” sources said.
The board meeting will also consider sale of an Airbus 310 freighter aircraft and giving away an A 320 aircraft for training.