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Business News/ Companies / News/  Vistara crisis: From roster revision to slashing daily operations, airline CEO unveils plan to address pilot shortage
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Vistara crisis: From roster revision to slashing daily operations, airline CEO unveils plan to address pilot shortage

Tata Group's Vistara airline grapples with pilot shortage as some protest pay changes before Air India merger. CEO addresses concerns, plans to revise roster to ease pilot pressure until May.

Vistara crisis: CEO Vinod Kannan assuaged pilots’ worries by telling them there will be opportunities to earn more after merger with Air India. (REUTERS)Premium
Vistara crisis: CEO Vinod Kannan assuaged pilots’ worries by telling them there will be opportunities to earn more after merger with Air India. (REUTERS)

Tata Group-owned Vistara airline is likely to cut its daily operations to address the shortage of pilots, according to Reuters news agency. Vistara cancelled more than 125 flights on 1 April after several pilots went on sick leave at the end of March.

Some of those who applied for sick leaves were protesting against a downward revision to pay ahead of a merger with Tata-owned Air India later this year. Pilots are upset with Vistara for aligning its salary structure with Air India Ltd. — a move that will reduce their guaranteed pay to 40 flying hours from 70 hours a month, entailing a significant pay cut of between 80,000 and 1,40,000.

Vistara's sticky wage problem holds lessons for the Tata Group

However, Vistara CEO Vinod Kannan claimed that the pilot shortage triggered as they reached their flight duty time limit. Kannan said the management will revise the roster to take pressure off the pilots from May onwards.

In a virtual meeting on Wednesday, the CEO assuaged pilots’ worries by telling them there will be opportunities to earn more after merger with Air India.

Vistara blames rostering for flight disruptions, warns of curtailed ops till May

At present Vistara is typically operating 300 flights a day but the Tata's airline is likely to scale back its network to resolve the dearth of pilots.

Besides, Vistara has deployed larger aircraft, such as 787 Dreamliner and A321neo, on some domestic routes to combine flights to tide over the crisis.

Vistara vs Tata Group

The latest tussle between Vistara pilots and the airlines spotlights the multiple challenges Tata Group will have to resolve before the merger with Air India by the end of 2024.

The salt-to-cars conglomerate bought the cash-strapped Air India from the government in 2022 to bolster its aviation empire. Later, the conglomerate decided to merge Vistara with Air India.

Vistara's struggles reflect Tata's missteps in airline mergers

Vistara has a fleet of 67 aircraft, mainly from the A320 family, as well as six 787 Dreamliner jets. 

Air India Chief Executive Campbell Wilson had once admitted that the proposed merger was fraught with complexities. Vistara pilots have expressed concerns about insufficient scheduling infrastructure and limited cockpit crew members. The pilots said this has impacted work-life balance.

Globally, airlines schedule pilots for 70-80 hours a month.

Now, Tata Sons needs to navigate a plan to resolve HR-related concerns, differences in work cultures, and operational philosophies before merging the operations of its airlines. 

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Published: 04 Apr 2024, 09:20 AM IST
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