Akasa Air has informed the Delhi High Court that it is currently facing a crisis that could lead to a potential shutdown. The airline has been severely affected by the abrupt resignation of 43 pilots, who left to join rival airlines without serving the mandatory notice period of six months for first officers or one year for captains. This exodus has resulted in the cancellation of 24 flights per day in September, with pilots predominantly joining Tata Group-run Air India Express.
As per media reports, a senior Akasa executive recently expressed concerns over the pilots’ unethical departure in communication with representatives of a rival group. Akasa Air, which operates around 120 flights daily, anticipates the cancellation of 600-700 flights in September if the resignations persist. They emphasised the need to enforce the rules regarding the mandatory notice period and requested that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) be empowered to take action.
However, the DGCA’s counsel stated that they were unable to act on this matter as the rules pertaining to the mandatory notice period had been challenged by pilot unions in a court case. The unions present in court opposed Akasa Air’s petition, asserting that the notice period issue was a contractual matter between the pilots and the airline, not a regulatory one.
Akasa Air’s counsel clarified that their petition solely focused on enforcing the notice period and not the broader contractual issues between pilots and the airline. They acknowledged the crisis in the industry, highlighting the DGCA’s agreement, and expressed readiness to comply with any guidance provided by the court.
The counsel stressed the complexity of replacing pilots, noting that it takes several months to train new ones. The aviation sector is currently experiencing turbulence, with Go First having gone insolvent earlier in the year due to grounded planes and SpiceJet facing financial difficulties and multiple legal cases.
Akasa Air’s counsel mentioned that approaching the Delhi High Court was their last resort after attempts to seek resolution with the DGCA and the Ministry of Civil Aviation went unanswered. They explained that the airline had taken legal action against individual pilots in the Bombay High Court, seeking substantial compensation for operational losses and damage to the airline’s reputation caused by flight cancellations due to the pilots’ premature departures.
The judge instructed the DGCA to submit its responses by Friday and allowed two pilot unions, the Indian Pilots Guild and Federation of Indian Pilots, to file their replies before the next hearing. Presently, Akasa Air operates a fleet of 20 B737 Max aircraft, while Air India Express possesses 26 B737 planes.