Air India cancels all pilots’ leaves to add flights as domestic travel touches new post-Covid high


2021-03-01 11:04:28

NEW DELHI: In a sign that more flights, perhaps even international, could be allowed soon, Air India has cancelled leaves of its pilots with immediate effect. The airline sent an order to its pilots on Monday, saying “all leave for cockpit crew stands withdrawn with immediate effect. However, leave may be granted in extreme cases depending on the urgency on a case to case basis.”
Senior AI officials say the airline has taken this step as the number of flights operated by the divestment-bound Maharaja are going to increase soon. The government has allowed airlines to operate upto 80% of their pre-Covid levels of domestic flights and has indicated the cap may be removed in coming summer schedule if the Covid situation continues to remain in control overall.
Scheduled domestic air travel is reviving after being allowed to resume on May 25, 2020, following a two-month suspension. Aviation minister H S Puri said February 28, 2021, saw 3,13,668 domestic passengers on 2,353 flights — the highest single day number since resumption of domestic flights last May.
If this trend continues then the summer schedule that gets into force in March-end could see the 80% cap on domestic flights and fare bands go.
Scheduled international flights, that were suspended on March 23, 2020, continue to remain suspended. However, India has allowed international flights to and from air bubble countries and on Vande Bharat Mission operations. So far bubbles have been created with over 25 countries.
In India, AI has the largest fleet of wide body aircraft used for passenger flights followed by two twin aisle Boeing 787 Dreamliners of Tata Group’s Vistara. The Tata Group, which founded AI, is the frontrunner for taking over the airline as the process to privatise it is on. Among Indian carriers, AI has the maximum flights to medium, long and ultra long haul nonstops to North America, Europe, Far East and Australia.



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