In a huge reprieve for 61 Air India pilots, the Delhi High Court has ordered that all the pilots be reinstated by the airline. This includes contractual pilots and all of them will receive their back wages since their unlawful termination. Let’s find out more about this ruling and its impact on Air India.
Back to flying
According to India Today, the Delhi High Court has come to the aid of dozens of Air India pilots. While the court had previously discussed paying the pilots their salary instead of rehiring them, it seems they have reversed course and held up the original employment contract instead.
In response to over 40 claims filed by pilots, the High Court ruled that Air India must rehire all the pilots who were sacked in August. This number totals 61 pilots, all of whom were locked in a contract dispute with the carrier. In addition to getting their old jobs back, the pilots will also receive back wages from April 2nd (the day they were suspended).
Air India has not announced whether it will appeal the ruling or carry out the court’s orders immediately. Regardless, the ruling puts the flag carrier in a difficult spot, forcing them to rehire pilots at a time when demand for both domestic and international flights remains at an all-time low.
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Win for pilots
Air India’s pilots unions have long been at odds with the management, even before the pandemic started. Most recently, the unions have demanded that the airline vaccinate its staff immediately or said they would stop flying. Before that, they also demanded a reversal of the steep pay cuts currently in place prior to the second wave.
Yesterday’s judgment will be a big win for the airline’s employees and the pilot’s union. It will also ensure that Air India will not attempt to violate employment contracts in the future, a question that has been key to the case. Despite its financial situation, things don’t seem to the getting better for the beleaguered flag carrier.
For now, expect to see Air India rehire the pilots soon and return them to service, or even appeal the ruling. Given the current situation in India, many of the carrier’s pilots are flying minimal hours due to a lack of demand and reduced schedules. This means the rehired pilots may not find much work.
After a turbulent two years, the government is hoping to get Air India off its plate and into private hands. Currently, the Tata Group and SpiceJet CEO Ajay Singh are closing in on filing their final bids for the flag carrier. If all goes well (which it rarely does), the process should be complete by September, albeit with a lower price due to the second wave.