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Business News/ Companies / Vistara blames rostering for flight disruptions, warns of curtailed ops till May
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Vistara blames rostering for flight disruptions, warns of curtailed ops till May

Over the last two days, more than 100 flights of the airline have been cancelled and a large number of flights have faced delays, as disgruntled pilots have called in sick en masse.

Over the last two days, more than 100 flights of the airline have been cancelled and a large number of flights have faced delays.Premium
Over the last two days, more than 100 flights of the airline have been cancelled and a large number of flights have faced delays.

NEW DELHI : Vistara has blamed poor rostering for a wave of flight cancellations at the full-service carrier, warning it may have to curtail its network for May as well to gradually stabilize operations, two people aware of the development told Mint.

Chief executive officer Vinod Kannan addressed Vistara's pilots on Wednesday following a string of flight delays and cancellations that left thousands of passengers stranded.

Over the last two days, more than 100 flights of the airline have been cancelled and a large number of flights have faced delays, as disgruntled pilots have called in sick en masse.

"It was a short meeting of about 20 minutes. The airline showed a poor planning for redundancies, especially for the month of March, and this left the network in a chaos after a large number of unplanned sick leaves were reported," one of the people cited above said.

The Delhi-based airline bore the brunt of poor crew rostering - a process of workload distribution - following a large number of unplanned sick leave, as there were just not enough pilots to back up and the existing lot were already stretched to their limits, he added.

Queries sent to Vistara remained unanswered till press time.

Vistara is being merged with Air India, and the Tata Group that owns the two carriers is seeking to implement a uniform pay structure, which effectively reduces the salaries of Vistara pilots by bringing them at par with Air India.

Under the new pay structure that's already followed at Air India, the pilots of Vistara get a fixed salary for 40 hours, instead of 70 hours earlier. In addition, they receive payment in lieu of extra flying hours and rewards will also be given based on the years of service with the airline.

"The airline plans to rejig the network for the month of May, and this is likely to curtail the network as well, as the airline plans a gradual return to normalcy," the second person said.

The Indian civil aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation is also monitoring the disruptions at Vistara.

DGCA has asked the airline to submit daily reports on the flights that are being cancelled and delayed. It has also asked the airline to extend the affected passengers all facilities due to them, including advance information, refunds and compensation.

"DGCA officials are monitoring the situation to ensure compliance of above-mentioned CAR (civil aviation requirements) and minimize passenger inconvenience," the regulator said.

The airline had said on Monday that it would cut flights over the next few days after facing disruptions due to unavailability of pilots.

"Some flights may also be cancelled tomorrow (Thursday) but afterwards, the network in itself is likely to be temporarily curtailed. The roster for April has been fixed and it will be modified for May," the second person added.

The mega-merger of two full-service carriers Air India and Vistara will be a complex process as the customer-facing elements will take time for a complete transition, Air India CEO Campbell Wilson had said last month.

“We have had a significant number of flight cancellations and delays in the past few days due to various reasons including crew unavailability. We have decided to temporarily reduce the number of flights we operate, to ensure adequate connectivity across our network," a Vistara spokesperson had told Mint.

Air India, formerly a state-run airline for 69 years, was reacquired by the Tata Group under a government-led strategic disinvestment programme in January 2022. Later that year, the Tata group announced a merger between Air India and Vistara.

Vistara is a 51:49 joint venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines, and commenced operations in 2015. Post the merger, Singapore Airlines will hold a 25.1% stake in the merged entity.

The Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore gave a conditional approval to merger of Vistara with Air India recently, six months after the Competition Commission of India gave its nod. This will allow the two airlines to efficiently plan their routes and codeshare network.

The airline acquired its 70th aircraft, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, last week. Its current fleet includes 63 narrow-body aircraft and seven wide-body aircraft with a daily flights count of around 350 flights a day.

In order to deal with the current crisis, it has deployed larger aircraft such as B787-9 Dreamliner and A321neo on select domestic routes to combine flights or accommodate more number of customers, wherever possible.

It is also offering alternate flight options or refunds to affected customers, as applicable.

"We are working towards stabilizing the situation and will resume operating our regular capacity very soon," the spokesperson had said.

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Published: 03 Apr 2024, 05:00 PM IST
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