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Air India pilots say vaccinate or won’t fly; airline assures jabs for all by May-end

The airline said late on Tuesday all its employees will be vaccinated by the end of this month.

Written by Pranav Mukul | New Delhi |
Updated: May 4, 2021 11:54:15 pm
Last month, the national carrier had decided to set up a mass vaccination camp for its employees aged 45 years or above on priority, news agency ANI had reported. (File)

Underscoring the struggle to get oxygen cylinders for themselves and family members, Air India pilots have threatened to stop flying unless the airline gets them urgently vaccinated against Covid. This comes at a time when the national carrier has been transporting critical medical equipment such as oxygen concentrators, BiPAP machines, ventilators, etc from several locations globally to various points across the country.

The airline said late on Tuesday all its employees will be vaccinated by the end of this month.

The Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA), a union of Air India pilots, in a letter to the airline’s management on Tuesday wrote: “Many crew have been diagnosed Covid positive and are struggling to get oxygen cylinders. We are left to fend for ourselves for hospitalization”.

“With no health care 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. Our finances are already spread thin covering our bedridden colleagues and provisioning for families … If Air India fails to set up vaccination camps on a Pan India basis for the flying crew above the age of 18 years on priority, we will ‘STOP WORK’,” it added.

To date, Air India has ferried medical equipment worth over 190 tonnes from stations, including Hong Kong, Germany, the US, Singapore, Dubai and London, to India for onward delivery.

Notably, private airline IndiGo had earlier said that it will get its employees vaccinated at its cost. Additionally, on April 27, in a letter written to chief secretaries of all states, Tuhin Kanta Pandey, Secretary, Civil Aviation (Additional Charge) wrote: “It is understandable that the crew, engineers, air traffic controllers, technicians, ground staff and frontline workers in aviation face significant risk in discharging their duties”.

“To ensure the sector continues to render essential services to the nation, it is imperative that the aviation work force is covered on priority in the vaccination program,” he added. In a separate statement, Air India said: “Discussions were already on for the vaccination of all AI employees, including the crew. As the guidelines did not allow vaccination below 45 years of age, AI could not complete the vaccination. Also after the vaccination dose is taken, two days leave is being given too to employees…a schedule for vaccination is now being drawn up and it is expected to commence as early as next week and all employees will be vaccinated by end of this month, that is May 2021”.

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