Air India’s (AI) senior pilots have expressed discontent over the differences in pay cuts announced by the national carrier for pilots and senior management. They claim that the salaries of top AI officials have been reduced by a smaller percentage, as compared to their own.
Pay of AI pilots has been reduced by 60% (40% on salary and 85% on flying allowances) owing to the new wage structure and leave without pay policy. The airline management, on the other hand, has taken a 50% cut on just their allowances.
Senior pilots, unhappy with the decision, said allowances paid to high-ranking officials are a small portion of their salaries, unlike that of pilots, whose allowances constitute 70% of their salaries.
Explaining the matter, a senior pilot said the airline has imposed a 40% pay cut on their gross salary and also reduced their flying allowance.
“Other airlines have announced an overall percentage cut on the gross salary. Air India has announced a 40% salary cut for pilots and will also pay allowances for a maximum of 20 hours of flight time instead of 70. With the current situation, when the demand is low and flight operations are restricted, it is impossible to fly for 70 hours. All the top officials are aware of this,” said an airline official.
When contacted, Air India did not comment on the matter.
Another senior pilot said, “Senior management has taken a cut on just arbitrary allowances, which comprises around 20% of their salary, so their cut comes down to just about 3-5%. Deductions have been strategically applied majorly on flying allowances; this move targets only pilots and brings down a pilot’s gross salary by 60-65 % on average.”
“We are still ready to take the cut in the interest of the company, but the top bosses must lead by example by agreeing to the same income loss as the frontline workers. It’s like cutting doctors’ pay during the Covid pandemic, but protecting the pay of those in the hospital accounts section,” said a senior pilot.
He said that the pilots were not only flying to bring back stranded Indians but also to transport necessary personal protection equipment (PPE) and medicines during the lockdown.
“If a pilot gets infected with the virus, he is de-rostered without pay. He has to prove his complete medical fitness before boarding a flight. If a pilot sustains long-term lung damage or neurological or cardiovascular damage as a side effect of Covid-19, he will lose his livelihood,” the pilot added.
Jitender Bhargava, former executive director of Air India, said, “The airline’s senior management should set an example for its employees by taking at least an equivalent pay cut if not more than their staff. This wage structure is a poor decision taken by the airline.”