Air India’s executive pilots’ union EPA has extended support to A Kathpalia, who has been chosen as director of operations of the national carrier, urging the staffers to rise above “petty considerations” and work for the airline’s turnaround. The Executive Pilots’ Association (EPA), whose members are commanders, is the second grouping after IPG to come out in support of Kathpalia, whose elevation is being opposed by the third union ICPA that comprises pilots of narrow-body planes.
In February, aviation regulator DGCA had suspended his flying licence for three months after he had skipped compulsory pre-flight medical tests. On March 30, the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet had approved appointment of Kathpalia as Director (Operations) of Air India for five years.
Differences among pilots over his promotion came to the fore after the Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association (ICPA) opposed the move. There are around 1,600 pilots employed with Air India.
EPA — which represents executive pilots flying Air India’s wide-body aircraft — has said it would like to “place on record that it supports the government’s decision to appoint Capt Kathpalia as Director-Operations in Air India”. Emphasising that its members have full confidence in the abilities of Kathpalia, EPA said all unions, associations and employees should rise above petty considerations and extend their support for the turnaround of the airline.
“Such unnecessary objections to high level appointments by the government needlessly hamper ongoing efforts towards the stated goals and demoralise the other employees,” EPA said in a letter, dated April 2, to the Cabinet Secretary.
Copies of the letter were marked to Civil Aviation Minister, among others. ICPA is the union of pilots of the erstwhile Indian Airlines that “represents less than a third of the pilot strength of Air India,” EPA said in the letter, alleging that for the last two years the former has been continuously levelling unsubstantiated allegations against Kathpalia.
Kathpalia’s handling of the operations department in a “professional, even handed and unbiased manner” is particularly noteworthy in the post-merger scenario, EPA said. “Objections from a disgruntled section of employees having vested interests and ulterior motives should not be allowed to hamper the smooth implementation of administrative decisions and appointments made by the government,” it said.
Last week, the Indian Pilots’ Guild (IPG) had said it had no objection to Kathpalia’s promotion. IPG represents the pilots of Air India flying wide-body aircraft such as Boeing 777 and 787, while ICPA is the union of pilots operating narrow-body planes which include Airbus 320.