Turbulence at Vistara, pilots protest while passengers suffer

Vistara flight (image credit X @Vistara)

Vistara flight (image credit X @Vistara)

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Vistara cancels over 50 flights in day to leave passengers in lurch

By Kumar Vikram

New Delhi, April 2: In response to escalating disruptions in air travel, aviation authorities have intervened after a wave of flight cancellations and delays by Vistara, sparking frustration among air-travellers.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has initiated action, demanding a comprehensive report from Vistara, the Tata group airline, regarding the recent surge in flight disruptions. Simultaneously, aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has mandated daily reports from the airline, closely monitoring the situation to alleviate passenger inconvenience.

The turmoil unfolded as nearly 80 Vistara flights were cancelled and over 190 faced delays on Monday alone, according to reports. The chaos persisted into Tuesday, with 25 cancellations and over 30 delays recorded by midday.

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Behind this turbulence lies a simmering conflict between Vistara pilots and the airline management over a revised pay structure. Many pilots have allegedly called in sick in protest against the new remuneration model, which aligns with that of Air India, Tata group’s flagship airline. Vistara is on the cusp of a merger with Air India, further fuelling discontent among pilots.

Addressing the crisis, a Vistara spokesperson cited multiple reasons for the disruptions, including crew shortages, and announced a temporary reduction in flight operations to manage connectivity across its network. However, specifics regarding the extent of cancellations remained undisclosed.

The heart of the issue lies in the dissatisfaction among pilots over the revised pay structure, which drastically reduces the minimum guaranteed flying allowance. Under the new terms, pilots guaranteed pay for flying hours would decrease significantly, potentially impacting their take-home salaries. As per the announced pay structure for Vistara pilots in February, their eligibility for guaranteed pay has been reduced to 40 hours from the previous 70 hours stipulated in their contracts with the airline. Many pilots express concerns that this change could result in a significant reduction in their take-home salaries.

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While Vistara has deployed larger aircraft on select domestic routes to accommodate passengers, the regulatory authorities remain vigilant in ensuring compliance with passenger facilitation norms amid the ongoing upheaval.

As travellers brace for potential further disruptions, all eyes are on Vistara and the aviation regulators as they navigate through this turbulence to restore stability in the skies.

Airlines need to adhere to the norms established by the aviation regulator DGCA to facilitate passenger needs in the event of flight cancellations or delays. DGCA officials are monitoring the situation to ensure compliance with the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) mentioned above and to minimize any inconvenience experienced by passengers.

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While the merger of Air India and Vistara has already been announced, it is expected to be completed in 2025 marking another step in the ongoing consolidation of airlines under the Tata umbrella. As part of this consolidation, Air India and Vistara are set to merge, retaining their respective brands until 2025. The acquisition of Air India by the Tata Group in 2022 further solidified this trajectory. Vistara, established in 2015 as a joint venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines, is now part of this significant development as it joins forces with Air India, one of India’s leading airlines.

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