At Vistara, operations totter back to normal; Air India Unions back the grouse of Vistara pilots

It has been a few days since Vistara flight cancellations took everyone by surprise. The airline pilots were supposed to be organising a protest by marking themselves sick, protesting the HR demand, requiring them to sign off on a new contract, and reducing their pay to align it with Air India’s cockpit crew. While the situation improves, the cancellations continue, although not at the scale it was earlier in the week.

Vistara management meets Vistara Pilots.

Vistara CEO Vinod Kannan interacted online with Vistara pilots on Wednesday, April 3. He apologised for the issues and assured them that steps would be taken to resolve them. Following the widespread cancellations and delays on April 2, the aviation ministry also required a response from Vistara on flight cancellations.

As per Vistara, the situation was not about pilots “protesting” via logging in sick leaves but about the fact that sick leaves expire at the end of the year (March 31, 2024) and hence, pilots wanted to use them up regardless of whether they were sick. However, That did not explain how the impact of the sick leaves taken on March 31, 2024 (Saturday) showed up on April 2, 2024 (Monday), when most cancellations happened.  Vistara cancelled over 140 flights between Monday and Thursday, with over half cancelled on Monday. The airline runs a schedule of about 350 flights a day.

The other issues the pilots raised are rostering practices and continuous last-minute scheduling changes, which leave Vistara pilots with no time to themselves. Vistara hasn’t hired enough new pilots as it awaits the merger with Air India, which means existing ones on the payroll keep flying to the edge of their Flight Duty Time Limits as the Government of India prescribes. A First Officer can fly 100 hours per month, for instance. It is rumoured that about 15 Vistara Pilots have resigned and are headed to an Indian LCC.

According to some reports, Vistara continued cancelling flights on Thursday and Friday. In the meantime, Air India Pilot Unions have supported Vistara pilots. The two unions, ICPA and IPG, wrote to Tata Sons Chairman N Chandrasekaran. Their letter says,

It is crucial to recognise that the concerns expressed by the Vistara pilots are not isolated incidents but rather indicative of systemic issues that extend across various Tata Group aviation entities.

Pilots are being subjected to conditions and treatment reminiscent of bonded labourers. There have been instances where Human Resources resorted to threatening pilots with potential disruptions to their future, accompanied by severe consequences. Threatening pilots with disruptions to their future is not only unethical but also creates a hostile and intimidating work environment.

You can read the letter as under.

a close-up of a letter

Vistara management said it would “carefully scale back the network” to reduce the high crew utilization levels slightly.


At Vistara, things might be looking up again, with discussions between the airline and its pilots ongoing. The cancellations have also gone down markedly, and Vistara’s CEO expects that the airline will return to its schedule operating fully by the end of the week. In the meantime, the Air India pilot unions have come out in support of the Vistara Pilots, noting that the conditions across all Tata Group-owned airlines are similar.

What do you think of the current mess at Vistara? Were the pilots correct in their mass sick leaves? Did they get a good enough response from the management?

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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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