Ministry of civil aviation officials meet Air India union members

Mumbai: Top civil aviation ministry officials have met pilot and ground engineer union members of merged entity Air India as part of the on-going reconciliation process and discussed pending issues. These include better utilisation of pilots and aircraft.

Joint secretary in the ministry of civil aviation Prashant Sukul met representatives of two pilots bodies - the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) and the Indian Pilots Guild; and the Air India Engineers Association. ICPA represents over 800 pilots of the erstwhile Indian Airlines who went on a 10-day flash strike late last month

ICPA president Captain Rishab Kapur informed media that the meeting with Sukul focused primarily on better aircraft utilisation.

"Now the average utilisation of an aircraft is only 9 hours, and we want it to be raised to at least 12 hours to begin with, which should be raised further gradually," Kapur said.

Government sources have also acknowledged that they are looking at ways to increase aircraft utilisation in the domestic sector and the pilots union have said they are willing to shift to other aircraft as well after undergoing training and receiving type certification for B-737, B-777, B-787 series aircraft.

Currently, because of reduced aircraft utilisation of the A-320 fleet of erstwhile carrier Indian Airlines, Air India has around 100 sets of pilots who remain unutilised. Pilot union members have suggested that either increase aircraft utilisation of A-320 be increased pilots be shifted to other aircraft fleets.

The average aircraft utilisation per day on for Air India on the domestic sector is around nine hours, much less than the global average of around 13 hours. Some airlines such as Air Asia and Air Arabia maintain aircraft utilisation of around 19 hours a day.