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Air India May Slash Schedules Due To Crew Shortage  
User currently offlineB747-437B From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Posted (11 years 7 months 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 2445 times:

Air India is facing an acute shortage of both pilots and cabin crew and may be forced to reduce their flight schedules as a result.

The national carrier of India has been forbidden to hire new employees since 1997 by a government order due to chronic overstaffing. This overstaffing remains in other departments, but the government is unwilling to allow Air India to hire pilots and cabin crew until and unless the overall staffing situation is sorted out. The airline is also not permitted to furlough employees by government order.

Additionally, the government has mandated a retirement age of 58 for all Air India employees with no exceptions. This is becoming extremely troublesome because the airline engaged in a major hiring drive when the 747s were introduced in the late 60s/early 70s and the crew hired at those times are now reaching mandatory retirement age with no replacements available.

Air India had attempted to hire staff on individual contract basis earlier this year to cover areas of deficiency, but the ministry has not yet approved this scheme. As a result, the situation has gone from bad to worse.

Currently, Air India is being forced to operate flights with 2-3 cabin crew less than their optimal service standards on most routes, and this will get worse when Hajj flights commence next month. Air India will operate a total of 188 extra flights (94 each way) with Boeing 747-200 aircraft to transport in excess of 30,000 pilgrims between India and Jeddah.

If relief is not obtained through some means within the next 4-5 weeks, the airline may be forced to reduce their schedule by upto 20% to deal with the crew shortages.


16 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineIndianguy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 1, posted (11 years 7 months 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 2404 times:

Another reason why "Open Skies-II" is essential. As long as AI and IC are shackled by the govt. they cannot grow to reach their true potential.

Roy


User currently offlineN79969 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 2, posted (11 years 7 months 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 2360 times:

AI needs to be put out of travelers' misery. The government needs to either to sell the airline to competent managers or shut it down and let foreign carriers pick up the slack. Unfortunately, I don't see either happening.

User currently offlineJaysit From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 3, posted (11 years 7 months 4 days 7 hours ago) and read 2336 times:

Who is in charge of this ludicrous operation?

Oh, yes. The Government of India.

JRD Tata must be turning in his grave, yet once again.


User currently offlineDonder10 From Canada, joined Oct 2001, 6659 posts, RR: 22
Reply 4, posted (11 years 7 months 4 days 7 hours ago) and read 2316 times:

What a farce.Why will they not shift AI to the private sector?

User currently offlineN79969 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 5, posted (11 years 7 months 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 2302 times:

-437B,

What is the likelihood of the Indian government of letting a private Indian company to compete with AI on international routes? For instance, could Jet Airways become an international carrier if they wanted to? Or could AI kill the idea?


User currently offlineB747-437B From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 6, posted (11 years 7 months 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 2299 times:

As of right now, there are no plans to allow any private airlines access to international routes. That has nothing to do with AI, but rather the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

Honestly, as we have dicussed many times here, allowing private airlines access to international markets without giving AI the flexibility to compete is a losing proposition. You will simply replace one monopoly with another.


User currently offlineN79969 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 7, posted (11 years 7 months 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 2295 times:

-437B,

But doesn't AI, as a government-owned entity, have some serious influence at the Ministry? I agree that replacing one monopoly with another is no solution and that freeing up AI (or letting it fold naturally) must precede opening up the market to competitors.

However, if Jet Airways were to become India's flag carrier it would not be a true monopoly because it would have to compete with foreign airlines on price and service in order to survive. That same survival instinct does not apply at AI. The legions of incompetent people in that company never face the prospect of unemployment.


User currently offlineB747-437B From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 8, posted (11 years 7 months 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 2285 times:

doesn't AI, as a government-owned entity, have some serious influence at the Ministry?

If AI had serious influence at the Ministry, this thread would never have been an issue. They would have had the freedom to hire new staff and the entire problem would have been avoided.

if Jet Airways were to become India's flag carrier it would not be a true monopoly because it would have to compete with foreign airlines on price and service in order to survive

How on earth is this any different from Air India's situation right now? In case you haven't noticed, Air India has transformed itself into a highly profitable carrier despite these government shackles.

The legions of incompetent people in that company never face the prospect of unemployment.

The legions of allegedly incompetent people are what has kept the carrier not only alive, but also strong and growing despite decades of interference from the ministry. Maybe I'm biased because of my personal involvement with AI, but I can assure you that AI's personnel are the equals of any succesful management team in the world.


User currently offlineN79969 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 9, posted (11 years 7 months 4 days 5 hours ago) and read 2268 times:

-437B,

If AI had serious influence at the Ministry, this thread would never have been an issue. They would have had the freedom to hire new staff and the entire problem would have been avoided.

I'll defer to you on this one. My thought was that they could probably successfully argue to their regulators that new entry by carrier x or y would hurt AI (and thus the government) and should be prohibited simply on those grounds.

if Jet Airways were to become India's flag carrier it would not be a true monopoly because it would have to compete with foreign airlines on price and service in order to survive

How on earth is this any different from Air India's situation right now? In case you haven't noticed, Air India has transformed itself into a highly profitable carrier despite these government shackles.

Air India cannot go out business. Dealing with Air India is like dealing with the local DMV. How much of their profit is derived from 5th freedom traffic between LHR and the US? Fares to India are absurdly high from the US due in part to bilateral restrictions. I am loath to give AI too much credit for their profitability but I will give them some in light of the interference from on high.

The legions of incompetent people in that company never face the prospect of unemployment.

The legions of allegedly incompetent people are what has kept the carrier not only alive, but also strong and growing despite decades of interference from the ministry. Maybe I'm biased because of my personal involvement with AI, but I can assure you that AI's personnel are the equals of any succesful management team in the world.

I was not taking a jab at you or your friends at AI who I am sure are dedicated professionals that must swim against a formidable tide. However, I think the level of incompetence at AI is utterly breathtaking. I have flown a decent amount on international carriers but I have never seen any airline as horribly run as AI. I just flew them this weekend and experienced a 30-hour delay that was wholly avoidable. That is just part of the AI experience that was simply inexcusable.

I think AI has some redeeming qualities including a very courteous cabin crews and nice people working at JFK. I also sense that cockpit crews at AI are pretty good. But that's it. AI does not deserve the honor of being the flag carrier of India.


User currently offlineB747-437B From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 10, posted (11 years 7 months 4 days 5 hours ago) and read 2257 times:

I just flew them this weekend and experienced a 30-hour delay that was wholly avoidable.

I assume your flights were affected by the diversions from DEL due to fog on Thursday/Friday? Apart from those, there has been no delay even remotely approaching that length. And you can't blame Air India for the fog. In case you didn't notice, even 9W cancelled 40% of their Delhi flights during that period.


User currently offlineJaysit From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 11, posted (11 years 7 months 4 days 5 hours ago) and read 2250 times:

-437B:

AI's professional management teams aside, the airline will always be stymied by the Aviation ministry. Years ago, my father worked for a Govt of India enterprise (the oil industry) and he was always up in arms against assignments and promotions being meted out as political favors that professional management teams could do little about. In the end, he got so frustrated, he quit in disgust. I may be wrong, but I'm sure that professional toady-ism, sychophancy, etc etc are endemic problems at an institution like Air India which is such a plum assignment for most Govt of India types.

Also, I seriously do not see how allowing another Indian carrier to fly on international routes will set Air India back, any more than giving additional routes to Emirates, Malaysian, etc etc (which will have to be done as the traffic in and out of India increases). AI compete with international carriers already on routes to and from India and on those sectors where they have 5th freedom rights, so competition is not an alien concept to Air India. Of course, bilaterals will need to be re-negotiated if this does happen, allowing for two or more designated Indian carriers on a route.

Also, when you say "... allowing private airlines access to international markets without giving AI the flexibility to compete is a losing proposition..." what is it that you are referring to? Cutting off the Aviation Ministry's shackles, so that AI can hire/fire employees, purchase aircraft, enter into alliances, etc etc etc? In that case, "flexibility to compete" will be a distant mirage, given that Air India is held hostage by more than just the Aviation ministry. It basically implies that the only benefactors of the Aviation ministry's protectionist policies are foreign carriers, with AI stuck in "never never land" and Indian domestic carriers forbidden to even enter the fray.



User currently offlineN79969 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 12, posted (11 years 7 months 4 days 5 hours ago) and read 2238 times:

-437B,

Of course I am not blaming them for the weather. Yes, it was the fog. It was AI 111 on 12/26. It's the way the airline dealt with the situation. DEL has pretty legendary fog and it was obviously not the first time that AI has dealt with that issue.

I am curious as to your take on the situation.

It occured even to me (a person with very, very limited airline work experience) that they could have saved everyone a lot of trouble by avoiding the BOM-DEL sector altogether and proceeded directly to LHR given the unpredictable nature of fog in DEL. The proferred justification for not doing this was to avoid stranding people in DEL and the BOM-DEL pax. It stands to reason that people in DEL and those going there were screwed no matter what since the airport was closed indefinitely and that the best thing to do was to accommodate those people in hotels. The rest of us would have been able to make our connections if they proceeded to LHR and JFK. They chose to hang on and try to get into DEL and then ended up stranding everyone onboard overnight in DEL. These guys circled DEL for 4 or 5 hours and had to divert for fuel and then come back to DEL before they finally made it. I won't bore you with all the details. But they must have also had to reaccomodate pax at LHR and JFK as a result of this lack of decisive action. The CS reps and flight crew were left in the dark by AI management. It was pretty bad.


The bottom line is that there is no reason that India should have such a horrible airline as its flag carrier.


User currently offlineAmmunition From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2002, 1065 posts, RR: 4
Reply 13, posted (11 years 7 months 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 2223 times:

I was once delayed due to fog in delhi in 1998, and i must admit they dealt with it very professionaly, putting us in a hotel for the 6 or so hours the flight was scheduled to be delayed. On return to the airport we waited another 3 hours. But all in all it was very well dealt.
Having been delayed over a day at amsterdam due to weather conditions, im greatful to air india for putting the passangers into hotels. BA did not do a thing for us in amsterdam during the thunder storms in late october.
Air india has great potential, but wheather there will ever come a time when they even begin to scrape that potential is a question which only the indian government can decide.
The amount of legislations and so forth placed upon the airline with regards to employees and decision making e.t.c is absolutely rediculous.

A waste of great potential from an airline which boasts one of the worlds most diverse, mystical, cultural and most populated countries in the world!

I do see air india doing well in the future! but when that will happen is anyones guess!



Saint Augustine- 'The world is a book and those who do not travel, read only 1 page'
User currently offlineB747-437B From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 14, posted (11 years 7 months 4 days 3 hours ago) and read 2197 times:

Air India has a specific contingency plan for fog in DEL that involves operating all flights scheduled between 8pm to 10am from BOM instead and then running BOM-DEL-BOM extra sections on 747s to position the DEL passengers appropriately during breaks in the fog. The plans have been in place for some years now, and usually work like a charm.

Unfortunately, this year this plan cannot be implemented because of crew shortages (ironically the very reason I started this thread). There are simply insufficient reserve crew available to crew extra sections, not to mention the turmoil caused by crew being stranded out-of-position in DEL.

Looking at the crew that were supposed to work the specific flights you mentioned, the crew scheduled to operate DEL-LHR were on the second leg of a trip to New York that had them on the road till January 4. The crew operating BOM-DEL were to split in Delhi, with some going on to FRA the next day and the others operating back to BOM that same night. Most of the crew for the BOM-DEL flight had insufficient legal work hours left for December to allow them to work an entire 10 day rotation to LHR/JFK, meaning that if they operated BOM-LHR, AI would be forced to deadhead a replacement reserve crew with sufficient legal hours in the month left (not an easy task to find) to London to replace them on their pattern while they were deadheaded back to BOM. At the same time, the crew sitting in DEL would be short hours for the month if they operated only a Frankfurt rotation. They would then have to pick up extra flight hours to balance out, meaning that they would potentially miss out their next bid pattern which would mean that the limited reserve pool would be have to be drawn on again. In summary, a royal mess would have ensued from a scheduling standpoint that would have affected flights for at least 7-10 days more.

I'm not trying to make excuses, but rather pointing out that this is just another example of how what seems like a minor issue (crew shortage) spirals into something that forces the airline to helplessly endure huge delays like the one you were subjected to.


User currently offlineB747-437B From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 15, posted (11 years 7 months 4 days 2 hours ago) and read 2193 times:

I'm sure that professional toady-ism, sychophancy, etc etc are endemic problems at an institution like Air India which is such a plum assignment for most Govt of India types

You are absolutely correct. Just look at the highly publicized drama involving Michael Mascarenhas and V.K.Verma last year for a prime example of this.

I seriously do not see how allowing another Indian carrier to fly on international routes will set Air India back

A carrier with a hub-and-spoke system like Jet Airways is capable of operating can come in and feed their flights from an entire network of destinations. Air India meanwhile is hampered by lack of access to the domestic feeder market and a fleet consisting only of widebodies that do not lend themselves to a hub-and-spoke system.

Cutting off the Aviation Ministry's shackles, so that AI can hire/fire employees, purchase aircraft, enter into alliances, etc etc etc? In that case, "flexibility to compete" will be a distant mirage, given that Air India is held hostage by more than just the Aviation ministry.

I think the BJP government, for all its faults, has actually allowed Air India to develop more of its own market strategy rather than follow blind edicts issued by Delhi. The restructuring and subsequent turnaround in fortune affected from 1999 to date is a prime example of this. Previous aviation ministries would never have allowed Michael Mascarenhas to make the bold moves such as pulling out of European destinations, but it was smart moves like that and a focus on core business that brought about the change in fortune. Yes, there are still politically motivated flights like GAU-BKK and AAN-CCJ and it still takes forever-and-a-day to get things approved, but all-in-all there are a lot less shackles for AI management than there were 10 or even 5 years ago. Baby steps...



User currently offlineN79969 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 16, posted (11 years 7 months 4 days 2 hours ago) and read 2182 times:

-437B,

Thanks for that explanation. That clears things up. We (the passengers) were left with the distinct impression that AI did not have a contigency plan. The AI staff members (who often ran away after making an announcement) preferred to argue rather than to lend a sympathetic ear. Judging by their conduct, it seemed like it was the first time that AI dealt with fog in Delhi.

I was sympathetic to the flight crew because they had sit around in the plane from the beginning of that fiasco until we took off, then worked, and then had to listen to the complaints. It made for a long day.

In any case, I hope that AI is sold by the Indian government or shut down if they cannot compete. Actually, I hope that Jet Airways eventually is allowed to operate overseas. There is no reason why India cannot have more than one international carrier. Jet Airways is really good, I think they could do well given the opportunity.



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