AI offers bitter pills to 'sick' pilots

Tushar Srivastava

New Delhi, Feb. 5 -- Fed up with its pilots constantly calling in "sick" - especially on weekends and during festivals - the Air India management has decided to refer the cases to the medical cell of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation and the air force's medical evaluation centres. From now on, the half-yearly fitness tests conducted by air force doctors - known as tests for licence renewal - will become gruelling for the pilots. The AI high fliers could be asked to go to specialists and get detailed investigations done.

An AI official said the crew members only have to say "yes" or "no" to whether they have been absent due to any illness when undergoing the licence renewal process. And their answer is mostly "no".

"Now that their health records will be available to the doctors examining them, the crew will have to provide details of their illness and the medication taken," the AI official said.

"It is a common knowledge that the pilots report sick whenever a dispute arises with the airline management. The easiest way to take an off is to call in sick on weekends and during festivals," an aviation ministry official said.

But an office bearer of the ICPA, an association of the pilots of the erstwhile Indian Airlines, said, "This won't serve any purpose and is being done to harass pilots."

AI has already started sharing data on its Bangalore-based pilots. Although AI hopes that the move will help reduce the pilots' sickness, industry observers believe that this is the management's way of gearing up for an agitation, following the pay-cut recommended by the Dharmadhikari committee.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.