BANGALORE: Claiming that there was no precedence anywhere in the world, leave alone in an Indian public sector company, for such a massive reduction in flying and other allowances, Air India’s managerial or executive pilots who fly overseas routes to the Americas and the continent could also join the ongoing strike. They could also be joined by engineers holding executive posts.
These pilots, numbering around 120 and belonging to the erstwhile Air India before the merger between Indian Airlines and Air India, are known as managerial or executive pilots and hold portfolios in the airline management. They are distinct from ‘line pilots’ who hold no managerial positions and are part of the airline union.
Presently, around 400 managerial pilots belonging to the erstwhile Indian Airlines and flying primarily domestic and regional as well as a few long haul routes are on ‘strike’ by reporting sick following the management’s decision to cut productivity-linked incentives. These pilots are also barred from being part of any union.
Though the two airlines have been merged, pilots and engineers belonging to the two entities still fly and operate different fleets, and work under different pay structures and service conditions.
Reliable sources explained that the AI management’s decision to cut — between 50 and 70 per cent — allowances or productivity-linked incentives was effective only for managerial pilots and not for line pilots. This, they claimed, was unfair.
The sources also termed the cut highly arbitrary since managerial pilots’ take-home salaries could be reduced by as much as half if the cuts in allowances were implemented. With allowances making up as much as 90 per cent of the managerial pilots’ salaries, they could end up taking home a salary less than that of the more junior, line pilots despite having many more years of experience and holding key positions. When a number of airlines recently implemented cuts in pilot salaries, the percentage cuts were in single digit, the sources said.
Pointing out that salaries were paid to executive pilots “as per industry standards,” pilots said they were not to blame for the mess in the airline and its mounting losses. “Cutting our salaries will not help Air India save money. Pilots have not brought about this mess. Let Air India show us a turnaround plan. The mess is because of pathetic management practices, flying unproductive, unviable routes, bad rationalisation of routes and pilots.”
An average commander with 10-12 years’ experience from the erstwhile AI gets a salary, including allowances of around Rs.5 lakh to Rs. 6 lakh a month.