Will stop working if Air India does not vaccinate flying crew: Pilots’ union

Pilots of the national carrier Air India Ltd on Tuesday informed the airline’s management that they will stop working if the company failed to set up vaccination camps across the country for its flying crew.

In a letter addressed to the airlines director (operations) Captain R.S. Sandhu on Tuesday, the Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), union of erstwhile Indian Airlines pilots and pilots of narrow body aircraft of the airline, said that many members of the airline crew have been diagnosed with coronavirus, and are struggling to get oxygen cylinders and are left to fend for themselves for the hospitalization process.

“We have gone above and beyond during this pandemic, risking life and limb to ensure our citizens’ well-being. Due to our unwavering support, VBM (Vande Bharat Mission) and relief operations continue to run smoothly even in the face of a resurgence of even deadlier strains of covid-19. All we got in return for our dedication and sacrifice is a massive discriminatory pay cut,” the letter signed by ICPA’s general secretary T. Praveen Keerthi said.

“With no healthcare support to the flying crew, no insurance, and a massive opportunistic pay cut, we are in no position to continue risking the lives of our pilots without vaccination,” the letter said.

“Our finances are already spread thin covering our bedridden colleagues and provisioning for families lest we inadvertently infect them with the deadly virus that is an ever-present occupational hazard for us,” it added.

A copy of the letter has been reviewed by Mint.

In contrast to Air India, private airlines such as IndiGo have said that they will get their employees vaccinated and have initiated an internal inoculation drive. However, with a massive shortage of vaccines, large corporations face huge challenges to conduct vaccination drives for all their employees.

India has seen an unabated rise in fresh covid cases in the last few days. As many as 357,229 more people tested positive for covid-19 in the last 24 hours, taking the cumulative caseload to 20, 282 ,833 according to government data.

Several Air India employees, including pilots, who have operated international and domestic flights, have contracted the infection in the past month.

An Air India spokesperson didn’t respond to queries.

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