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Business News/ Companies / News/  Bombay HC asks pilots to reply to Akasa plea
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Bombay HC asks pilots to reply to Akasa plea

The airline has approached the court seeking a stay against 43 pilots who resigned suddenly and failed to serve mandatory six-month notice periods

In its lawsuit against the pilots, Akasa is seeking ₹21.6 crore compensation. (Bloomberg)Premium
In its lawsuit against the pilots, Akasa is seeking 21.6 crore compensation. (Bloomberg)

The Bombay high court (HC) has directed 43 pilots of Akasa Air to respond to a petition filed by the airline regarding their sudden departure and the impact on its flight operations.

The airline has filed cases in both the Delhi HC and the Bombay HC. It had urgently approached the Bombay HC seeking a stay against the 43 pilots who resigned suddenly and failed to serve mandatory six-month notice periods, resulting in “immense passenger inconvenience".

The resignations led to numerous flight cancellations, leaving passengers stranded. Reportedly, the pilots resigned following job offers from Air India Express.

On Wednesday, a Bombay HC bench headed by Justice SM Modak asked the pilots to file their reply in the matter, and posted it for a detailed hearing on Thursday.

In its petition, Akasa requested that the pilots be prohibited from joining any other airline until they serve contractual notice periods.

In its lawsuit against the 43 pilots, Akasa is seeking a 21.6 crore compensation, including 14.28 crore for damages to the airline’s reputation due to flight cancellations, rescheduling and grounding, 6.96 crore for loss of operational profits, and 36 lakh related to the pilots’ training agreement.

Separately, the airline has also approached the civil aviation regulator, Directorate General of Civil Aviation.

“Considering that the acts of these pilots resulted in immense passenger inconvenience, Akasa Air has approached the DGCA and agreed with them to request the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi to pass orders for implementing the interim order in relation to the Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) dated 16.08.2017 governing compliance of the mandatory contract notice period requirements by the pilots," said an Akasa Air spokesperson.

In a clarification to reports of a potential “shutdown" of the airline owing to the disruption of operations as a result of pilots’ exit, Akasa said it has a 10-year plan covering pilot recruitment, training and internal career upgrades. “We have enough pilots at various phases of training to fly over 30 aircraft," the spokesperson added.

//WEB

However, the airline reiterated that the aviation industry is heavily driven by manpower, and process and discipline are essential to this ecosystem that needs trained, experienced personnel to ensure safety and longevity of the entire operations.

“A shortage of pilots is an issue that the airline industry has faced for decades. As a team of planners, we are prepared for unforeseen circumstances and have contingency management strategies in place," the spokesperson said.

While the airline has pilot training partnerships with Boeing and CAE, it is in the process of developing a cadet programme of its own as well.

The airline also said it is on track to commence international operations this year and will also place a three-digit order by the end of the year to account for future growth. Currently, it has 20 aircraft in its fleet and another 56 narrow-body aircraft are in the pipeline.

“The airline that our team has created has generated cash from its first day of operations as a result of which the initial investment by our investors (including the investment made by Mr Jhunjhunwala) continues to remain secure in our bank account," the spokesperson added.

Akasa Air commenced operations as a domestic scheduled airline in August 2022. While it suffered a setback within a week of its launch with the passing away of co-founder Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, co-founder and CEO Vinay Dube has maintained that the airline is a long-term investment for Jhunjhunwala’s venture capital firm Rare Enterprises and the Jhunjhunwala family.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Priyanka Gawande
Priyanka Gawande is a senior legal correspondent at Mint. She has worked as legal reporter for four years with both television and digital mediums. Based in Mumbai, she reports on disputes across sectors including banking, corporates and finance. This also includes insolvency and bankruptcy cases and intellectual property rights (IPR) litigation. Her focus also comprises tracking capital markets and disputes relating to securities law. Previously, Priyanka worked with Informist Media for 2.5 years covering major insolvency and bankruptcy cases and corporate developments. She started her career in journalism with Business Television India (BTVi) where she reported on primary markets, banking, finance and insurance companies.
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Published: 21 Sep 2023, 12:07 AM IST
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