New start-up Indian airline Akasa Air is facing an existential crisis after the sudden resignations of 43 pilots.
Akasa Air has been forced to cancel 24 flights per day due to the resignations of 43 of its pilots. The airline’s CEO, Vinay Dubey, initially told the Delhi High Court that the airline was in a state of crisis and might have to shut down as a result.
A later statement by the carrier said that they were “prepared for unforeseen circumstances and have contingency management strategies”
The month of August saw the airline cancel 700 flights, and it is quite likely that its cancellations for September will amount to the same number.
Akasa Air has filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court against the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) asking it to take coercive action against the pilots who quit without giving a six-month notice period. The airline is also seeking monetary compensation.
The DGCA has responded, saying that it will look into the matter and take appropriate action.
The pilots who resigned have cited a number of reasons for leaving the airline, including low salaries, poor working conditions, and a lack of job security.
Problems continue beyond August
Speaking on the issue in August, a spokesperson for Akasa Air told MoneyControl that the carrier had faced an issue of pilots not serving their notice period after quitting, resulting in some rostering issues which have caused flight cancellations.
Customers of the airline had increasingly vented their frustrations over the cancellation of flights and also with delays in the processing of refunds.
Grounded aircraft exacerbated the problem with aircrew shortages in August. Eleven of Akasa Air’s 20-strong fleet were not configured as per the carrier’s original plans.
“These issues will be resolved soon, we have grounded some planes temporarily to fit them with new seats and these planes are expected to return to service in September,” said the airline spokesperson at the time.
First year of operations
Akasa’s woes also coincide with the celebration of its first year of commercial flight operations. Having commenced in August 2022, Akasa Air has catered to 4.3 million passengers in its first year of service, forging an impressive network of 35 routes across 16 destinations.
In the longer term, it is unclear whether Akasa Air will be able to continue operating if it is unable to recruit and retain pilots.
Whilst the Indian aviation sector is currently booming, the airline is facing stiff competition from other low-cost carriers, such as IndiGo and SpiceJet.
On the positive side of the coin, Akasa is supported by a relatively young fleet of next generation Boing 737 MAX aircraft. The airline also states that its finances remain strong.
With these assets on its side, hopefully the Indian low-cost carrier can find its way through the current set of difficulties.
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