The development comes against the backdrop of regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation suspending two Jet pilots last month after issuing notices to 131 pilots for not meeting mandatory licensing requirements. Jet has over 1,000 pilots, while subsidiary JetLite has 189 pilots.
“Around 181 flights have been delayed since Sunday. On Monday, 12 flights were delayed in Mumbai by 3 pm, which led 38 more to be affected in the chain. In fact, 9W 358 (a Delhi-Mumbai flight) was delayed by two hours and 20 minutes. The largest pilot shortage is for Jet’s narrow-body fleet,” said a person close to the development. A delay in one flight usually leads to several other flights also getting pushed back since the same aircraft is often used for multiple sectors.
Another source added, “This is happening because of DGCA’s flight duty time limitations. As per the rules, a pilot can fly a maximum of 120 hours a month and 1,000 hours a year. So if he flies 100 hours a month he completes 1,000 hours in just 10 months and needs to rest for two months. There is a daily limit of eight hours of flying a day and a mandatory rest period after every flight. Jet pilots are flying on minimum rest.”
Jet Airways did not respond to an emailed questionnaire till the time of going to press.
Several irate passengers took to social media to vent their frustration. “Celebrating the take off of my @jetairways flight after 4 hrs delay. Beggars can’t be choosers. fail,” said Naresh Jain (@nashjain) on Twitter. Another passenger, @Vikrant Singhvi said, “The reason for delay as per the ground staff: Shortage of Pilots! Is this the reason to delay a flight by an airlines like @jetairways 9W411.”
Incidentally, subsidiary JetLite (operates as JetKonnect) has excess pilots. But the parent Jet has been unable to absorb them to solve its crisis because of the “unfair terms” presented to them. In August, Jet offered JetLite pilots an option to transfer to the parent but said they will be put at the bottom of the seniority pool and may be shifted to any location around the country. Most of JetLite pilots have rejected this offer and the negotiations are still continuing.