Indian Government owned airline Alliance Air found itself in troubled water on Monday this week after almost 80 of its pilots reported sick as part of an industrial dispute.
This effectively represented a large portion of the airline’s 200-strong pilot workforce, and it forced the airline to cancel many of its scheduled flights.
Yesterday, Wednesday 12 April, the airline advised that striking pilots had returned to work. It is understood that the airline is discussing the issues with its pilots.
Alliance Air was previously a part of Air India – once the airline was privatized, Alliance Air remained a wholly owned subsidiary of Government of India, although it is soon expected to be privatized as well.
This week’s strike action
A faction of the airline’s pilots decided to go on strike after alleging that they are not being paid as per their contract, hence they collectively reported sick at the same time. This left the airline with no choice but to cancel majority of its scheduled flights.
The cash-strapped airline has 21 aircraft in its fleet consisting of 18 ATR-72, 2 ATR 42 and one indigenously developed by HAL Dornier.
The airline has a total of 179 daily scheduled flights and is the only fixed wing company left with the Government of India. It should be noted that for a few select routes the airline is the sole operator.
For example, no other private airline operators fly to destinations like Agatti Islands in Lakshadweep, where Alliance air is the sole operator.
An Alliance Air spokesperson confirmed this disruption, saying that “Almost 100 pilots have reported sick. Over 60% departures have been cancelled,” according to news sources.
The unforeseen disruption in the logistics chain is directly impacting the timely availability of spares. This has restricted the airline’s overall flight operations due to safety reasons.
Combined with the group of dissatisfied pilots who reported sick en masse without giving any prior intimation; it resulted in cancellation of flight operations on 24 routes.
Unfortunately, the action by the pilots has inconvenienced the travelling public, potentially brought disrespect to the airline, and resulted in revenue loss.
The airline managed to operate the remaining flights with the help of senior pilots. As no formal notice was served by these striking employees, the management is taking a serious view on this development.
“Passengers were kept informed of these cancellations and have been facilitated with either full refund or have been accommodated on alternate flights,” an official from Civil Aviation ministry said to Business Standard.
“The company has been making losses. We need to see whether it’s genuine or not, and the impact it will have on the airline. Mass sick leave is not the correct way to address the issue”.
The main issue here being that during the pandemic Alliance Air had to cut flight crew salaries, like every other airline.
However, now that most of the airline business is returning to pre-Covid levels, the pilots expect their salaries to be paid in full, similar to the level they were receiving before Covid-19.