Air India must get at least 85% flights on time, crew shortage being tackled: Aviation Min
The battle to have AI flights stick to scheduled timings has been launched and the target is to get at least 85% of AI flights to take off and land on time by next month. For the last two months, AI has been surpassing its own dismal on-time performance (OTP) record by reporting only about 60% flights on time.
There is a mini battle being waged at the Ministry of Civil Aviation. No, it is no more about saving cash strapped SpiceJet, ministry officials have now trained their guns on state-owned Air India instead. The battle to have AI flights stick to scheduled timings has been launched and the target is to get at least 85% of AI flights to take off and land on time by next month. For the last two months, AI has been surpassing its own dismal on-time performance (OTP) record by reporting only about 60% flights on time.
A senior official told Firstpost the ministry has begun daily monitoring of Air India's on-time performance (OTP). "We can't have 40% of Air India flights delayed or cancelled. This must stop. We are now monitoring OTP daily. An Integrated Operations Control Centre has been made active at Delhi airport for monitoring OTP. The airline and respective airports have to explain each flight delay and the airport also has to tell us action taken by it prevent delays," this official said.
He said that Air India has been told to achieve at least 85% OTP within a month though as per the turnaround plan, the OTP should be above 90%. This official also said that crew shortfall is being urgently addressed and 350 cabin crew members have been already recruited. Cabin crew members of Air India have been pointing out that there is a shortage of anywhere between 600 and 800 crew and this is largely the reason for flight delays.
"Air India should have adequate crew strength within a month. Anyway, crew shortage is only at 5-6 big airports and we are trying to improve manpower deployment across the airline so that shortage is felt less at these critical airports. Besides, recruitments are being done," the official quoted earlier said.
On the contentious question of lopping off salaries of those employees found delaying flights, this official indicated that despite the Civil Aviation Secretary's missive to the airline last week on the matter, things may not be taken this far.
He said a formula is being worked out to decide if Air India employees' salary will actually be deducted for delaying flights. "We have an open mind on this...we will be working out a mechanism to see how the on-time performance of Air India can be improved."
Secretary V Somasundaran has directed the airline to slash salaries of employees because of whom flights are delayed from February one. This has lead employees to question the airline's own practices and to wonder about how accountability for delays will be fixed on individuals.
As we said in a piece yesterday, salary cuts may actually not spur employees to perform with any more sincerity. Instead, Air India should overhaul its own internal systems.
Recently, there was an incident where a scuffle ensued between the captain and the engineer of an Air India flight, leading to an hour's delay in departure.
The ministry official quoted earlier said there will be a review of maintenance issues and other issues which lead to flight delays - more manpower will be deployed at busier airports and logistics for the airline's crew reaching the airport in time will also be improved. Meanwhile, speaking to Firstpost about Air India's chronic delays, Civil Aviation Minister A Gajapathi Raju said "The general feeling is that indiscipline is high in the airline. Some steps should be taken to bring discipline in to the system."
To a question on whether he would consider introducing a hire and fire policy to rein in errant employees, Raju said "job protection has its place only when work is done. Not when it is not done". With new full service airlines like Vistara making it tougher for Air India to compete in the domestic market, it had better pull up its socks.