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Unannounced Attrition Compels Akasa Air to Sue 43 Pilots

Expedited Departures Unpopular with Indian Low-Cost Carrier

Founded in August 2022, Mumbai, India-based Akasa Air is an Indian low-cost air-carrier operating a fleet of 19 Boeing 737 MAX 8 and one 737 MAX 200 narrow-body airliners to 16 destinations across the Indian subcontinent. Currently, Akasa Air has outstanding orders for an additional 56 aircraft.

Notwithstanding the airline’s promise and the apparent optimism of its management, Akasa Air’s aspirations to expand have been hampered, of late, by pilot attrition. Recent months have seen more than forty of the air-carrier’s pilots depart to take flight-deck positions with competing airlines. Moreover, Akasa maintains subject pilots failed to give compulsory notice of their intentions to fly the proverbial coop—notice stipulated by India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the nation’s civil aviation authority.

A subsidiary of India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation, the nodal ministry responsible for the formulation of national policies and programs for the development and regulation of Indian civil aviation, the DGCA sets forth commercial pilots seeking to part company with their employers must provide between six and 12-months’ notice prior to vamoosing. The length of the prescribed notice period has fomented controversy, however, and Indian pilot organizations have challenged the edict’s legality in court.

Akasa Air, in a reversal of convention, has accused the DGCA of failing to take action against a number of pilots recently departed from the airline’s employ. Akasa contends nearly nine-percent of its wayward pilots absconded with little-or-no notice, and that the unexpected departures occasioned the cancellation of over six-hundred flights in August 2023 alone.

The airline states, also, that ongoing pilot attrition has forced it to cancel 24 flights per-day throughout September. An increasingly affluent Indian population’s appetite for air-travel has given rise to an unprecedented domestic air-carrier boom. To date, 2023 has seen Indian carriers Air India and IndiGo place orders for 470 and 500 commercial airliners respectively. Stated plainly, Akasa Air commenced operations in the midst of the biggest air-travel boom since the interwar period of the early 20th Century.

Even as the airline sues 43 of its former pilots for departing with allegedly insufficient notice, Akasa Air is making ready to undertake new international routes approved by the DGCA in early September 2023.

Akasa Air was founded by Vinay Dube and Aditya Ghosh with capital provided largely by late billionaire investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala (1960–2022), who held a 46-percent stake in the enterprise.

FMI: www.akasaair.com

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