Air India Sacks Pilots, Derecognizes IPG As Pilot Union

You may not have heard, but Air India’s pilots have been bickering for some time. They are split into two unions, the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) which is made up of pre-merger Air India pilots, and the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) which represents the pre-merger Indian Airlines pilots.

Air India 787

The IPG felt that Air India should only train IPG pilots on the new state-of-the-art Boeing 787s that Air India is receiving, because pre-merger Air India ordered the 787s. In comparison, the ICPA felt that an equal number of ICPA and IPG pilots should fly the 787s. The management agreed with the ICPA, because they felt that it is a fairer way. There has been a few court battles, and both unions were trying to negotiate with management. A few weeks ago, the enmity got so bad that some IPG pilots faked sick so that a flight carrying ICPA pilots to 787 training would get cancelled. The pilots arrived a day late to training.

The courts sided with management and the ICPA. Yesterday, talks broke down between the IPG and management. Ignoring all rules regulating how strikes are to be carried out, the IPG held a “sick-out” yesterday evening, with almost 160 pilots reporting sick. 10 longhaul flights were cancelled. Today, more pilots were planning to report in sick, but AI’s management did something commendable. They fought back.

Air India 787

Aviation minister Ajit Singh declared the strike “illegal” –  he said, “There are certain ways of even going on strike. The pilots may have grievances but they should have spoken to the management, me, other well wishers” to the press. Air India sacked 10 pilots who were found to be in good health after reporting sick, and took the politically dangerous decision of derecognizing the IPG, even though the union is backed by the Nationalist Congress Party. For those who find it difficult to keep track of all the various political parties (like me), the NCP is former Aviation Minister Praful Patel’s party.

Air India demanded that all pilots report to work this evening. They sent doctors to the homes of the 160 “sick” pilots to verify that they are actually ill. Those who are found to be in good health and don’t report to work tonight will be sacked effective immediately.

Air India has enough problems on its own without having to worry about undisciplined pilots with unreasonable demands. It’s good that management and the MoCA is taking a strong stance, instead of just giving in to the IPG’s demands and setting precedent for the future.


  1. Airblogger says:

    Air India = Hawa Bharat….only hawa…only loosers travel by Air India. If it goes, then it is good riddance to bad rubbish

    • I disagree. I love flying Air India – it’s a good airline normally.
      There are a lot of issues with management, labor, government interference, etc., and it is a big waste of taxpayer money, but it’s not a bad carrier to fly on as a passenger.

  2. I think Air India pilots(IPG) got this idea to mistreat Indian Airlines pilots from USA based airlines. All of the major airlines in USA treat regional pilots real bad. Even though they market as AA,Delta,United, regional carriers are incorporated as different companies and pay pilots at par with school teachers without any benefits. Continental 3407 crash allegedgly result of pilot fatigue caused by this bad treatment. Young aspiring pilot flew from Seattle to Newark on privious night to start her shift. Allegedly, she was not provided accomodation by airliner. Obviously she could afford on her own.
    I am glad Air India management trying treat all pilots same.

    • Yeah, the way USA-based airlines argue so strongly on scope clauses (which restrict regional airline flying) is in some ways similar.

      I think a more similar situation though is what happened at US Airways – after it merged with America West, the US Airways pilots didn’t like the new seniority integration plan. So they created their own union (the USAPA), and kicked the current union off property.