60+ Vistara flights cancelled, regulator seeks daily updates

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Tuesday asked crisis-hit Vistara to provide it with daily information on flight cancellations and delays and to extend flyers all facilities due to them, along with refunds and compensation. The development came on a day that saw the airline cancelling more than 60 flights, after almost 50 on Monday, as reported by TOI.
Vistara has a daily schedule of over 350 domestic and international flights.On Tuesday, from Mumbai alone, the airline cancelled 14 departures and 17 arrivals. On international routes, flights from Mumbai to Paris and Male were cancelled. Passengers booked on connecting international flights out of Delhi and Mumbai were worst hit. Kolkata had one cancellation and several delays. The airline has yet to issue a statement.

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DGCA: Vistara flight disruptions due to crew unavailability
On-time performance (OTP) of Vistara’s currently operating flights has nosedived because of an ongoing pilot shortage. On Monday, just 51% of the airline’s domestic flights had been on time, according to data on the aviation ministry website.
“We are monitoring the situation to ensure compliance and minimise passenger inconvenience,” said a senior DGCA official.
DGCA says Vistara has been seeing flight disruptions “due to various reasons, including crew unavailability”. While pilots remain dissatisfied over “pay cuts” they will have to endure when the airline merges with Air India, and for other reasons, sources in Vistara say they hope the issue will be resolved by this week. “Our Tuesday OTP was much better than Monday’s, though there still are some delays. As far as pilots being unhappy over being shifted from a minimum payment of 70 hours to 40 hours per month (under the new agreement they had to sign as Vistara prepares for the merger) is concerned, they will actually make more than before as utilisation is more than 70 hours for active pilots,” said a source.
Vistara operations returning to normal is crucial for this capacity-constrained peak summer travel season. Already, passengers now looking to either rebook on other airlines or making fresh bookings while avoiding Vistara are complaining of fares spiking. For instance, the cheapest economy ticket on budget carriers flying from Bengaluru to Delhi on April 6 and flying back on April 14 starts from upwards of Rs 25,000 and goes up to Rs 46,000, searches on online travel agencies show.
“I was asleep when the airline messaged late at night that our 8.20am flight from Indore to Delhi had been cancelled,” said Sushil Patni, a senior citizen travelling with his wife to Azerbaijan. “We then booked the 10am IndiGo flight to Chandigarh, from where we flew to Delhi, as were booked on the 9pm flight to Baku. We ended up spending over Rs 21,000 for the last-minute IndiGo flight to Delhi via Chandigarh.”
With almost 75 IndiGo planes grounded because of snag-ridden Pratt & Whitney engines, GoAir not flying since last May, SpiceJet operating few flights, and supply of new planes being slower than promised from both Boeing and Airbus, the Vistara crisis could not have at a worse time, just ahead of the peak summer travel season.
Vistara has a schedule to operate 2,324 weekly domestic flights this summer, 25% more than last summer’s 1,856. A dip in this will add to the ongoing shortage amid runaway demand and could lead to skyrocketing airfares.
Aware of the heartburn this could cause in the busy poll season, the aviation ministry on Tuesday said it was monitoring the situation of Vistara flight cancellations.
Analysing what’s going wrong, senior pilots in AI and Vistara said introduction of the new wage agreement for Vistara pilots was not done properly. “There was no consideration of seniority and experience for staff in the merged entity. The pilots were not consulted. Some in the senior management don’t have adequate experience and maturity to handle the complicated process of merger Crew scheduling has not considered adequate fatigue and lifestyle management,” said a senior pilot.

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