After Losing 3 Colleagues To COVID, AI Pilots Ask Airline To Show Care

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Air India Boeing 787-Dreamliner. Source: AI

After Air India pilots recently lost three senior pilots to COVID-19, the Indian Pilots Guild (IPG), union of Air India wrote to their chairman requesting to immediately provide a befitting compensation to their colleagues who have died due to infection.

The Times of India reported that numbed by the demise of three colleagues due to COVID within a span of five days, the Air India pilots asked their management to have HR policies that show that  “Our loved ones will be looked after by our company should the worst happen to one of us in the line of duty.” During the pandemic, a significant number of frontline workers, including pilots, across airlines have lost their lives to COVID.

Citing examples of IndiGo which “covers a deceased pilot to the sum of Rs. 5 crore” and several central and state government schemes compensating families of frontline workers who have lost their lives in the pandemic, the IPG  asked the airline management: “Are not AI employees rightly eligible for something similar? Why can’t the flag carrier create and provide something similar?”

IPG is a union of erstwhile Air India (pre-merger days with Indian Airlines) pilots.

The Hindustan Times said that stating a staff notice dated July 17, 2020, that pays Rs. 10 lakh to a pilot who dies of COVID-19, the pilots pointed out that this is the only measure Air India takes to compensate the next of kin of an active employee who lost life due to COVID-19, in the line of duty.

Relevant Policies Needed

“Whilst the intent of the company may be good, let us not overlook the reality of the situation. Nationwide, Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) have policies in place for such tragedies. Ex-gratia payment and compassionate employment being the most common. Why is Air India the only PSU that is relatively complacent towards compensation in the case of the death of an employee? We were surprised to learn that a well-respected Indian private airline runs a benevolent scheme with its employees where it covers a deceased pilot to the sum of Rs. 5 crore in case of death. Why can’t the flag carrier create and provide something similar,” an IPG pilot was quoted by Hindustan Times as asking.

Pilots in Shock

Comments from Air India have been sought on this issue and are awaited, a Times of India report said. The newspaper reported that Air India employees are in a state of shock as the airline lost three pilots to COVID-19 between April 9 and 14, 2021.

“The Late Captain Amitesh Prasad operated from San Francisco and landed in Bangalore on April 15, 2021. He travelled as staff on duty to Mumbai and immediately started complaining of COVID-like symptoms. On April 20, he (tested positive)…. on May 9, he passed away,” it said quoting the IPG mail to the management.

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Representational photograph showing COVID vaccines being loaded on an Air India aircraft in Pune. Source: Air India

The quoted mail read: “(A) staff notice informs of ‘an ad-hoc payment to the family/legal heir of employees, who die during the period of COVID-19.’ Sadly, this is the only measure taken by Air India to compensate the next of kin of an active employee who lost their life due to contracting COVID-19 in the line of duty. Whilst the intent of the company may be good, let us not overlook the reality of the situation. Captain Amitesh Prasad returned from flight duty with COVID symptoms and subsequently passed away due to the infection.”

The unions asked the airline about the steps being taken by Air India to ensure the aircrew/employees will be taken care of in case Covid-19 is contracted. They also questioned, how will the next kin be looked after in the unfortunate event of the demise of an employee.

Besides Captain Amitesh Prasad, other lives lost are of Captain Sandeep Rana and Captain GPS Gill. “The gravity of the situation will amass when one is to note that a total of three active pilots in Air India lost their lives to COVID-19 under similar circumstances within five days, between the April 9 and the 14, 2021. We request you to immediately attend to and mend this dismaying gap in the company’s HR policy so that we may know that our loved ones will be looked after by our company should the worst happen to one of us,” the IPG letter concluded.

 

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