Air India pilots resent pay cut, may go on strike

Air India, which is under severe financial stress, will see a further strain on its operations in the busy holiday season with its pilots resenting a proposal to cut their allowances by 15 per cent.

With 60 per cent of their salaries coming from allowances, any reduction in allowances will place Air India pilots' pay packets below the pay scales offered by other airlines.

Most of these pilots operate narrow-body aircraft like Airbus-320s on domestic and flights to neighbouring countries that belong to the erstwhile Indian Airlines. The total pay packet for a commander in this category is in the Rs4-5 lakh per month range, while a co-pilot gets around Rs2-3 lakh.

Executive commanders flying the wide-body aircraft would suffer the biggest reduction, whose monthly pay packet could fall by close to Rs1 lakh to around Rs7.5 lakh. Senior wide-body pilots, who fly on international routes, get around Rs6-7 lakh, while the co-pilots have a package of Rs5-6 lakh.

Meanwhile, the pilots and the airline management held a few rounds of talks in the recent past.

Air India officials defended the pay cut saying that the 15 per cent cut in allowances was being effected for all sections of employees of the national carrier.

They said there was no proposal to cut salaries which are based on to the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) guidelines for all employees, barring pilots, engineers and cabin crew.

Officials discounted the possibility of pilots striking work over the issue which could affect the airline's operations during the summer season.

It was only the allowances where the reduction was being proposed, they said.

The Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) has not accepted the new structure and said it would hold further discussions amongst its cadre.

The airline management has asked the pilots to respond in 21 days.