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New Delhi: The aviation regulator’s decision to make it mandatory for airline pilots to give a year’s notice before quitting is likely to impact both the pilots and the airlines, said analysts.

Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) chief B.S. Bhullar said in a 16 August order that it took eight to nine months to train a pilot and that their resignations caused operational disruptions. “It has, therefore, been decided that pilots working in an air transport undertaking shall give a ‘notice period’ of at least one year in respect of commanders, and six months in respect of co-pilots, to the employer indicating his intention to leave the job," Bhullar said.

“I find it a bit draconian. I don't know offhand the policies of other airlines but I would think it is three months for both captains and co-pilots," said former Jet Airways chief executive Steve Forte.

This proposed ruling does not give any consideration to the contingency planning airlines must do like those for resignations, retirements, illnesses and deaths, he said.

A pilot trainer at a top private airline, who did not wish to be named, said the orders were demoralising for the entire pilot community.

“The problem with this order is that it is wrong at the legal, moral and human level," he said, adding there are four reasons why this was so.

One, legally, the aviation regulator’s role is to make rules to ensure and enhance aviation safety.

Two, the order talks about a one-year notice period which is unlikely to apply on expats who can leave as per their contractual notice period. Is the expat pilot any less “impacted" or is it that the home country of the pilot will create a stink? 

Three, if the airline reduces/delays payment of salary, what recourse does the pilot have apart from going for a long-winded and often expensive court battle? “The DGCA is slow in protecting the rights of the pilot. In fact, having a pilot undergoing financial stress is one of the more serious problems that an airline and regulator will encounter like it happened with Kingfisher Airlines," the private airline pilot trainer mentioned earlier said. 

Four, it effectively reduces competition and creates artificial monopolies of resources. The new rule will ensure that the smaller companies cannot source experienced crew, putting a question mark of their viability itself.

Air India Ltd, Jet Airways, InterGlobe Aviation Pvt. Ltd-led IndiGo, SpiceJet, GoAir and Vistara did not respond to emails seeking comments on the subject. 

A private airline official, who did not want to be named, said the impact of the order will be more on those airlines that are expanding. “If you can’t get local pilots, this will mean you have to look for more expats to fly planes," he said.

Jet Airways’ pilot union said it was opposed to the move. National Aviators’ Guild (NAG) president D. Balaraman said he will challenge the order in a court.

A senior official of Air India’s Indian Commercial Pilots' Association (Icpa) union said they too will consider going to the courts.  

So far, all pilots were required to give a six-month notice period.

“Pilots are like many other professionals and it is best that the government doesn’t interfere in their employment terms. Calling their work as being in ‘public interest’ is not only inappropriate but quite funny," said Amrit Pandurangi, former head of infrastructure practice at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India Llp. “If this is the attitude of the government, nothing prevents them from making notice period of cricket players also one year, as any protests from any player would also be against public interest."

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