Delhi High Court Asks Air India To Pay Sacked Pilots

In an ongoing dispute between a group of sacked pilots and Air India, the Delhi High Court has asked the airline to potentially pay the pilots. The suggestion comes after the 61 pilots took their case to the courts, citing that Air India broke its contract with them. Air India has previously said that it would not layoff any employees through the crisis.

Air India is currently in the middle of a court dispute with a group of pilots who were laid off in August. Photo: Getty Images

One month salary

Following a recent hearing in the Delhi High Court, the judges suggested that the pilots and Air India could come to a “golden handshake” agreement, according to Scroll.in. This agreement would potentially see the pilots receive one month’s salary as a part of their termination. While this is a start, it is far from what the pilots are demanding.

Lawyers representing the pilot’s group have said they want the pilots to receive their owed allowances and salaries as of April 1st. Instead, Air India could also hold up its contract with the pilots and re-employ them. However, Air India has made it clear that it is facing a challenging financial situation right now.

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The pilot group has requested the High Court to order Air India to pay them owed salaries or re-employ them under the contract. Photo: Getty Images

Air India, in response, the current crisis has seen up to 90% of its pilots not flying and caused losses of over $175.3mn (₹1300 crores). This situation pushed the airline to suspend the group of pilots in April and terminate them in August.

What are the potential outcomes?

While the court has suggested one month’s salary as a settlement between the parties, the pilots may not accept this. Instead, the pilots will likely request a much higher settlement amount or even ask to be re-hired by the airline. It is to be seen how the court views its request in light of Air India’s current financial difficulties.

Air India has cited financial difficulty in its decision to lay off the pilots. Photo: Getty Images

The next hearing is set for December 16th and the court has asked Air India to consider the one-month settlement. Notably, the court also added that while it understands Air India’s situation, “we cannot also let the employees be left to hang high and dry.”

Air India’s tough year

In the absence of the current crisis, Air India likely would’ve become a privately-owned airline by this time. However, the downturn means that the carrier’s sale has been repeatedly delayed, with no clear owner in sight. The government has also been reluctant to further fund Air India, only ensuring it can maintain its obligations. The final date for bids for Air India is on 14th December, with many potential groups in the mix.

The government has plans to privatize Air India as soon as possible. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

While most airlines have made workforce reductions, Air India has only opted for a long leave-without-pay (LWP) program. Under the LWP program, employees could find themselves furloughed for up to five years. However, this means Air India has promised not to layoff any employees during the crisis.