Harassment Alert at Air India: Airlines received 8 sexual-harassment complaints in first half of 2019

Air India received eight sexual harassment complaints internally during the first half of this year as compared to the total 10 complaints in 2018, sources said.

On May 16 this year, Airline’s Chief Ashwani Lohani told the employees through a text message that sexual harassment cases are “often” being witnessed in Air India and the airline needs to come down “very very heavily” on such offenders.

The Chairman and Managing Director’s message came after the airline announced on May 15 that it has set up a high-level inquiry to probe a sexual harassment complaint filed by a woman pilot against a commander.

A source told, “During 2018, 10 complaints of sexual harassment have been filed at Air India. Between Jan 1 and July 1 of 2019, eight complaints of sexual harassment have been received.”

Another source said on Sunday that Air India has been dealing with each such complaint in the “strictest manner possible”.

In May this year, the aforementioned high-level inquiry was initiated after the woman pilot filed a complaint, which stated that the alleged incident took place on May 5 at Hyderabad where she was being trained by the commander.

The commander was told on May 20 by the national carrier that he needs written permission to enter the airline’s offices till an inquiry into the complaint is over.

In a letter to the accused, Air India Regional Director (northern region) Abhay Pathak said that “pending (an) inquiry… during the period of suspension, you will not enter the premises of Air India Limited without written permission”.

“You will not leave the station (Delhi) without written permission of the undersigned,” Pathak added.

High Court asks Air India to release salary of grounded pilot

The Delhi High Court today directed national carrier Air India to release the salary of a pilot, who was grounded in 2016 after being allegedly tested positive for alcohol consumption before and after flights on two occasions.

Justice Rajiv Shakdher asked the airline why it had withdrawn the full salary of the pilot and how could he sustain in such circumstances.

“Why no part of his salary has been paid since January 2017. You cannot withdraw the full salary. He has to have something to sustain. Release it,” the judge told Air India.

The pilot’s flying licence was taken away but he has not been terminated from services yet and was still an employee of the airline, his counsel said.

The court issued notice to the airline and the Director General Civil Aviation (DGCA), seeking their responses by May 15, the next date of hearing.

It was hearing a petition filed by an Air India captain, whose flying licence was taken away in August 2016, seeking release of his salary which was allegedly not given to him since January 2017.

During the hearing, the judge asked the DGCA why neither the flying allowance, nor his basic salary was being given to the pilot.

To this, the counsel for DGCA said the pilot was not being allowed to fly and hence, no allowance could be given in that regard. The issue of releasing his salary was to be decided by the airline and not by the DGCA, she added.

The court then asked the DGCA to file a counter affidavit before the next date of hearing on May 15.

“Petitioner is not being paid salary from January 2017. Besides non payment of flying allowance, the petitioner has also alleged that procedure for carrying out breath analyser tests (BA Test) have also not been adhered to. He said between two tests, a controlled test has to be conducted, which was not done. It is submitted that controlled test was carried out after the second BA test,” the judge said.

The high court was informed that the petitioner was subjected to BA test during pre-flight check at Chennai in June 2015 and the second time a post-flight test was conducted on him in Calicut on August 10, 2016.

The counsel for the pilot submitted that he was suspended for three months on charges of alcohol consumption, adding that an FIR was filed against him on August 26, 2016, but the police, after the probe, had filed a closure report on April 6, 2017 exonerating him of the charges.

During the hearing, the counsel appearing for Air India said instructions were needed from the airline on the issue of release of salary to the pilot.

“Issue notice to Air India, DGCA. Rejoinder be filed in three weeks. Air India to seek instructions. List on May 15,” the judge said.

AI to pay compensation of Rs 1L for serving stale food

AI to pay compensation of Rs 1L for serving stale food
AI to pay compensation of Rs 1L for serving stale food

Air India has been directed to pay Rs one lakh by the apex consumer commission as compensation for serving stale food to a passenger aboard a Mumbai-New York flight.

The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, while dismissing the revision petition filed by the airline in 2015, said “the nature of deficiency in service” could have affected the health of several passengers.

“Taking into account the nature of deficiency in service and the fact that it would have affected the health of several passengers, we do not find any fault with the order of State Commission enhancing compensation to Rs one lakh,” the bench, presided by Justice Ajit Bharihoke, said while also upholding the award of Rs 10,000 as litigation cost by district forum.

The Maharashtra State Consumer Commission had earlier enhanced to Rs one lakh from Rs 15,000, the compensation awarded by the district forum, saying the passenger might have been required to go foodless during the remaining journey and such conditions create a bad situation during air travel.

According to the complaint filed by Malti Madhukar Pahade, she was served with stale food while travelling in the Air India flight from Mumbai to New York. She claimed she also found a strand of hair in the rice bowl.

Pahade described the bad state of curd served and referred it as “green as cherry”.

While challenging the State Commission’s order, Air India contended that the enhancement of compensation by the State Commission was not justified as it was “highly disproportionate to the negligence/deficiency in service alleged by the complainant.”

The bench, also comprising member S M Kantikar, dismissed the contention and upheld the state commission’s order which said a passenger travelling with a reputed airline expected minimum courtesy and proper food for human consumption.

It also noted that the airline had fined the caterer Rs 20,000 for serving stale food on board.

“We do not wish to comment upon the motive or reason of the concerned authority to impose such a meagre amount of fine on the defaulting caterer particularly when the food supplied by the caterer is served to all the passengers travelling in the flight,” the bench said.

( Source – PTI )

SC raps government over state of affairs in Air India

With Air India grappling with financial crisis, the Supreme Court has rapped the government for giving “profitable routes” to private carriers and asked it to plan a turnaround in the national carrier saying it “faces extinction” if things continued like this.

“Why many lucrative routes have been given to private carriers,” a bench comprising justices Vikramjit Sen and Kurian Joseph observed while expressing concern over Air India taking a beating against private airways, post merger of Air India and Indian Airlines.

The bench, which wanted the Civil Aviation Ministry to think over the various issues plaguing the national carrier, also said other area of concern was the priority given to private airlines with Air India aircraft being asked to hover around during the peak landing hours causing huge loss of money on fuel.

“A situation has reached where after travelling in private airlines, when one boards Air India, he thinks why have I taken this flight. The situation is really, really bad, we are sorry to say. The financial loss is already being talked about since long, passenger dissatisfaction is a known fact too.

“Strangely, Air India is focusing on money-losing routes while many profitable routes have been given to the private airlines. Please think of how a turnaround can be brought about,” the bench said, adding, “if things continue like this the airline faces extinction.”

The remarks were made during the hearing of the cross-appeals filed by Air India Management and workers union against the order of the Bombay High Court which dealt with various contentious issues arising out of the Justice Dharmadhikari report on the merger of the erstwhile Indian Airlines and Air India.

Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi was appearing for the Centre and Air India.

The high court had dealt with the issues of 75 per cent of wages and salary for the workers and had asked the unions to approach the Central Government Industrial Tribunal regarding lowering of salary allowances following the merger.

The high court had on January 27 declined to stay the implementation of the Dharmadhikari report on the merger of the erstwhile Indian Airlines and Air India.

Airhostess moves SC to get her contract renewed by Air India

Salome Sinosit an air hostess has moved to Supreme Court of India for directions to the company to take her back because her contract was not renewed by an Air India subsidiary on the grounds that she has become overweight.

Petitioner Salome Sinosit, 39, was an airhostess in Airline Allied Services Limited, a subsidiary of Air India.

She contended that anybody becoming an overweight cannot be a ground for termination of contract as the weight can be reduced.

She also pleaded that the termination of her contract by the company violates civil and human rights as it was rescinded without any valid reason and also without giving any opportunity to bring down her weight within the prescribed limit.

HC dismisses plea against A-I’s decision

Petitions challenging Air-India’s decision to transfer engineering workers to a subsidiary company of the airline has been dismissed by the Bombay High Court.

Observing that employees have no vested right to question the policy of employer to reorganise or hive off workers, the Bombay High Court has dismissed petitions challenging Air-India’s decision to transfer engineering workers to a subsidiary company of the airline.

“The petitions are devoid of merits and hence are being dismissed,” said Justices Ajay Khanvilkar and A P Bhangale in their 99-page judgement on April 2.

The Air-India and the Union government had taken a policy decision to transfer aircraft and service engineers to a separate company called Air-India Engineering Services Ltd.

Air-India said the decision was part of its “Turn Around Policy” (TAP) and was taken in public interest to ensure that the airline capitalises on the growth in the aviation sector in and around India.

This was challenged by Air-India Aircraft Engineers Association, All India Service Engineers Association and Air-India Employees Union saying that the decision was not only illegal and arbitrary but also in violation of service conditions and agreements made by the airline with employees.

The Unions argued that the engineering department had been hived off to Air-India Engineering Services Ltd, which was already in financial difficulty. There is a staggering amount of outstanding wages to the extent of Rs 100 crores payable to its employees.

Further, they argued, there was no guarantee that this subsidiary of Air-India would become self-sufficient and self-sustaining, in any case, before seven years as per the projections in TAP.

However, the court observed, “this argument will have to be negatived keeping in mind exhaustive reports and consultation papers pertaining to TAP. From that, it is amply clear that all financial aspects have been taken into account and then the final decision of hiving off was taken at the highest level.”

“There is no reason, therefore, to doubt the decision of hiving off on the basis of the point under consideration. In our opinion, the apprehension is outcome of misinformation and devoid of merits,” the bench observed.

 

Plea for stay on extension of AI flight duty time rejected: HC

The Delhi High Court has refused to stay Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh’s order to extend the flight duty time limitation (FDTL) of Air India pilots and cabin crew, saying it was their duty to enable Air India to “pull through” the “financial crisis.”

“Since the respondent Airlines is going through a crucial financial crisis, it becomes the duty of each and every person, who is part and parcel of the institution to work as per the established industry practises to enable respondent Airlines to pull through from its present position,” Justice Suresh Kait told.

The court said it is not “inclined to stay the operation of impugned order” and added that Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and other authorities have “power to increase” the FDTL as per the civil aviation requirements (CAR).

The order came on a plea of Sheela Joshi and other cabin crew members of Air India alleging that the minister and the DGCA have “arbitrarily” changed the FDTL, which were being governed by the Air Craft Rules along with the Memorandum of Settlement agreed on October 01, 2008.

As per the DGCA guidelines, the FDTL and the Flight Time Limitation (FTL), which deals with the actual hours spent in a flying aircraft, are 11 and nine hours respectively.
As per an earlier agreement between the Union and the Airlines, FDTL and the FTL had been pegged at 9.5 and 6.5 hours respectively.

“I am of considered opinion that the respondents have the power to increase the hours as per CAR 1997 with the condition that the rest period at base shall be prorate increased by twice the amount of extended period of flight duty time. If the rest is given to the cabin crew, then neither the health of the cabin crew nor the safety of the passengers will be affected,” Justice Kait said. The court, however, said the decision to increase FDTL and the FTL was not “final” as the issue is yet “to be worked out.”

During the hearing, the AI management had taken the plea that the Airlines was facing a “grave financial crisis” and is able to pay the salaries of its employees only from the aids from the government.

The employees have to work as per the established industry practises to enable the respondent Airlines to pull through from its present position, it said.

Besides the cabin crew members, Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA), the union of erstwhile Indian Airlines, had also challenged the increase in FDTL and FTL.

The minister had directed the AI on September 11 to follow the DGCA guidelines on FDTL for pilots and cabin crew on the ground that a comprehensive analysis had warranted the change.

The analysis found that barring one of the six FDTL parameters regarding ‘Rest Period’, all others followed by the carrier for its pilots and crew members were on the lower side compared to what was laid down by DGCA, an official statement had told.

The other parameters include number of landings, maximum daily flight duty period, maximum daily flight time, weekly, monthly or annual limitation of flying hours, SOD (Staff on Duty) travel or positioning for duty.

According to the analysis, the pilots were found operating flights for 6.5 hours on domestic and seven hours on international sectors, against the DGCA guidelines of nine and 10 hours respectively.

1981 AI plane hijack: Two move court for stay of fresh trial

Two alleged Sikh militants, sent back to India in 2000 after serving a life term in Pakistan for hijacking an Air India plane to that country in 1981, have moved a Delhi court seeking stay of a fresh trial against them here for the same offence.

The two, in their plea to Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Sameer Bajpai has said the trial in the case be stayed as the matter is pending before the Delhi High Court, which on April 8 will decide their plea for quashing the FIR.

Tejinder Pal Singh and Satnam Singh had approached the Delhi High Court in November for quashing of the FIR against them and also the trial court’s August 30 order, which took cognisance of the supplementary charge sheet.

The court fixed January 22, 2013 to take up their pleas.

The court said “At this stage, an application for stay of proceedings against the two accused Tejinder and Satnam has been moved. Put up for consideration on January 22.”

After the two along with Gajender Singh, Karan Singh Kini and Jasbir Singh Jima, who are also facing trial in the case, failed to appear before the court on issuance of non-bailable warrants, the court had ordered initiation of proceedings under section 82 of the Code of Criminal Proceedings (CrPC) to declare the five as proclaimed offender.

Under section 82 of the CrPC if the court has a reason to believe that the accused is absconding or concealing himself, it orders the prosecution to publish notice about the accused or publicly announce or affix information about them near their house or public places for making them appear in court.

The case against the five dates back to September 29, 1981 when they had allegedly hijacked an Air India plane from New Delhi to Srinagar and forced it to land in Pakistan, where they were arrested and put on trial and sentenced to life imprisonment.

 

PTI

SC notice to Centre on plea for probe of AI aircraft purchase

The Supreme Court on Friday issued notices to the Union of India other respondents on a petition seeking probe into the “unnecessary” purchase of 111 aircraft for the national carrier costing Rs 67,000 crore to the exchequer.

The Apex Court bench of Justice HL Dattu and Justice CK Prasad issued notice on a petition by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) seeking Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)/special investigation team (SIT) probe into the purchase of aircraft and other decisions causing loss to the exchequer.

The SC also issued notices to CBI, Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and Air India in this case.

The CPIL has also sought probe into taking on lease aircraft that again dented the exchequer by “thousands of crores of rupees”.

Besides this, the CPIL has also prayed for probe into the national carrier leaving profitable routes and timings “for the benefit of private airlines”.

A probe has also been sought into Air India giving away its bilateral rights to foreign carriers. The notice is returnable in four weeks.

AI withdraws contempt petition against pilots in SC

Air India on Monday withdrew its plea seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against the office bearers of Indian Pilots Guild (IPG) for allegedly obstructing the implementation of its order on training of pilots for the Dreamliner aircraft.

Appearing before a bench headed by justice TS Thakur, advocate Lalit Bhasin said the national carrier no longer wants to pursue the case and sought to withdraw the petition.

The airline had on May 10 filed the application alleging that the protest by the IPG, which disrupted international flights of the airline, amounts to the contempt of the apex court orders. The strike had been called off later.

The IPG was protesting the national carrier’s move to send pilots from both Air India and erstwhile Indian Airlines in equal numbers to get trained for flying the Boeing 787 Dreamliners, the first of which is likely to be inducted later this month.

The bench, meanwhile, asked the Bombay high court to adjudicate the dispute on training of pilots to fly Boeing 787 within three months.

The matter reached the Supreme Court after Air India had appealed against March 13 order of the Bombay high court which had restrained the national carrier from sending any pilot from Indian Airlines for training to fly Boeing 787.

Later on April 23, the high court order was stayed by the apex court which had made it clear “that the training imparted to the members of the IPG shall remain subject to the final outcome of the writ petition and shall not prejudice the rights and contentions of the writ petitioners before the high court in any manner”.