DGCA says monitoring Vistara ops, over 50 flights cancelled

Pilots at the airline are calling in sick en masse to protest the uniform pay structure between Air India and Vistara pilots under the ongoing merger exercise

Anu Sharma, Karishma Pranav Bhavsar
Updated2 Apr 2024
Vistara airlines has faced significant operational challenges, with more than 100 flights experiencing delays or cancellations in the last week.
Vistara airlines has faced significant operational challenges, with more than 100 flights experiencing delays or cancellations in the last week. (REUTERS)

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is monitoring the disruption in operations at Vistara, as the airline continues to cancel a significant number of flights due to the unavailability of pilots.

On Tuesday, at least 52 flights of the full-service carrier were cancelled. Pilots at the airline are calling in sick en masse to protest the uniform pay structure between Air India and Vistara pilots under the ongoing merger exercise, sources said. They added that the relationship between the airline and some pilots further soured after the carrier issued an ultimatum to the pilots to sign on the uniform pay structure, which effectively reduced their salaries.

Under the transition in the run-up to Vistara's merger with Air India, the two airlines were brought on a uniform pay structure from March. As per the new structure, the pilots of Vistara get a fixed salary for 40 hours instead of 70 hours earlier. In addition, they will receive payment in lieu of extra flying hours and rewards will also be given based on the years of service with the airline.

In view of the flight disruptions, the civil aviation regulator has asked the airline to submit daily information and details on the flights that are being cancelled and delayed. The DGCA has also asked the airline to ensure that the relevant provisions of civil aviation requirements (CAR) regarding facilities to be provided to passengers by airlines due to denied boarding, cancellation of flights and delays in flights are complied with. Also, advance information, an option of refund, compensation (if applicable) etc. ought to be made available.

“DGCA officials are monitoring the situation to ensure compliance of above-mentioned CAR 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 disruption due to unavailability of pilots. On Monday, nearly 50 flights of Vistara were cancelled, resulting in massive chaos for passengers and disruption of network for the airline.

“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.

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 had said last month.

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 currently a 51:49 joint venture of 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 (CCCS) gave a conditional approval to merger of Vistara with Air India recently, six months after the Competition Commission of India gave its nod to the merger of Vistara and Air India in September 2023. 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.

In order to address the current situation, 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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