Akasa Air, the newly established airline, has filed a case in the Bombay High Court against approximately 40 pilots who allegedly failed to adhere to the mandatory six-month notice period after resigning, according to sources.
The airline is seeking significant compensation from each pilot, reaching into crores, citing “operational losses” and damage to the airline’s reputation due to the abrupt flight cancellations resulting from their premature departures. These pilots have joined rival airlines, primarily Tata Group-run Air India Express.
In the previous month, Akasa Air experienced a doubling in flight cancellations directly linked to these premature departures. While the flight cancellation rate for Akasa Air was a mere 0.45 per cent in July, it surged to 1.17 per cent in August, based on data from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
An Akasa Air spokesperson stated, “We have sought legal recourse only against a small group of pilots who abandoned their duties and departed without fulfilling their mandatory contractual notice period. This not only violated their contracts but also the country’s civil aviation regulations. It is not only illegal but also unethical and self-serving, causing disruptions to flights in August, resulting in last-minute cancellations that inconvenienced thousands of passengers.”
“Fortunately, that is behind us now, thanks to the hard work of our colleagues. As a young startup, we are proud of what every Akasian has helped us build in the first year of our operations. Therefore, this kind of behaviour by a handful of employees is not only illegal and unethical but also deeply disrespectful to the hard work of our entire team, which shows up to work every day with utmost integrity,” the spokesperson added.
Sources indicate that Akasa Air has also reached out to the DGCA and the Ministry of Civil Aviation, seeking their intervention in this matter.
Currently, Akasa Air operates a fleet of 20 B737 Max aircraft, while Air India Express has 26 B737 planes in its fleet.
Air India Express anticipates receiving around 50 additional B737 Max planes from Boeing by the end of 2024, and as a result, the airline has been actively recruiting pilots in recent months. These 50 planes are part of the massive 220-plane order placed by the Air India Group with Boeing in February of this year.
According to aviation analytics firm Cirium, this month, Akasa Air is conducting 754 flights weekly, representing an 8 per cent reduction compared to July.
In August, the airline’s domestic market share declined to 4.2 per cent from the previous month’s 5.2 per cent, causing it to slip to sixth place in the rankings of domestic airline market share, behind SpiceJet, which is facing financial challenges. Akasa Air made its debut in commercial aviation on August 7th of last year with its inaugural flight operating on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad route.