Indian flag carrier Air India has reconsidered its decision regarding pilot layoffs. In possible anticipation of domestic flight resumption in near future, the airline decided to cancel flight crew leaves.
The airline’s management team issued an order on March 1, 2021, that cancels its previous decision to cut the flight crew staff numbers. In the letter seen by a local Indian media outlet, the airline informed that all leaves for flight crew “stands withdrawn with an immediate effect”. The air carrier also added that “the leave may be granted in extreme cases depending on the urgency on a case to case basis”.
The recent Air India decision follows positive forecasts regarding a full resumption of domestic operations in India in the summer season of 2021. According to Indian authorities, as of February 28, 2021, the demand for domestic air travel has reached the highest numbers since the resumption of domestic operations on May 25, 2020. If the trend continues, the demand for domestic operations could quickly reach pre-pandemic levels. However, following the Indian government’s Covid-related restrictions, Air India is currently allowed to operate only up to 80% of its capacity until March 31, 2021.
The airline’s aim to keep the flight crew available might also indicate that it is preparing for international flight resumption in the summer season of 2021, which starts at the beginning of April 2021. However, while the scheduled international commercial operations continue to remain suspended, Indian air carriers can only operate overseas flights to and from air bubble countries. India has such bubbles with more than 25 countries across the globe.