"we are in no position to continue"
Pilots for Air India are refusing to fly unless the airline gets them vaccinated for Covid-19.
Their decision is due to multiple Air India crew members testing positive for the virus since the pandemic began.
The Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), a union of past and present Air India pilots, told the airline that its members and their families are “struggling to get oxygen cylinders”.
They raised their concerns on Tuesday, May 4, 2021.
The ICPA also said they have been “left to fend for ourselves in hospitalisation” due to not having sufficient health insurance.
In a written letter to Air India’s management, the ICPA said:
“With no health care support to the flying crew, no insurance, and a massive opportunistic pay cut, we are in no position to continue risking the lives of our pilots without vaccination.
“Our finances are already spread thin covering our bedridden colleagues and provisioning for families lest we inadvertently infect them with the deadly virus that is an ever-present occupational hazard for us.
“If Air India fails to set up vaccination camps on a Pan India basis for the flying crew above the age of 18 years on priority, we will ‘STOP WORK’.”
The letter went on to say that the ICPA do not feel supported, and their work to keep operations running while at risk of Covid-19 is going unnoticed.
The letter says:
“We have gone above and beyond during this pandemic, risking life and limb to ensure our fellow citizens’ well-being.
“Due to our unwavering support, Vande Bharat Mission and relief operations continue to run smoothly even in the face of a resurgence of even deadlier strains of Covid-19.
“All we got in return for our dedication and sacrifices is a massive discriminatory pay cut.”
Currently, 10 Air India crew members are undergoing a 10-day quarantine period in Rome that began on Wednesday, April 28, 2021.
The crew includes two pilots, one of which tested positive for Covid-19, and eight cabin crew, with one testing positive.
The crew of the Delhi-Amristar-Rome flight were not supposed to quarantine. Instead, they were due to fly back on Thursday, April 29, 2021.
However, a rule change on their way to Rome caused them to have to quarantine alongside the 230 passengers on board.
International quarantine rules have been frequently changing, and Air India have the largest international network among Indian carriers. Therefore, its crew are often at risk.
Speaking of the Air India crew’s quarantine in Rome, a source said:
“When the crew gets in such situations abroad, there is little that AI can do.
“Rules of local authorities there are supreme and even if we try, we are not often able to even supply Indian good to our quarantined crew members.”
Air India’s pilots are not currently a priority for the Covid-19 vaccine. However, private airlines such as IndiGo have said they will ensure their employees are vaccinated.
Additionally, the Union aviation ministry has asked states to treat aviation workers as a priority group for the vaccine.