In the beginning of May 150 Air India pilots went on an indefinite strike, opposing the carrier’s promotion and type retraining policies thus causing dozens of flight cancelations. In the era of fluctuating sky-high oil prices, burdened by the need to reshape their business strategies, airlines are more than ever vulnerable to protest actions from their crews.

The Air India pilots have now been striking for almost a month, costing their carrier millions of dollars in losses, adding even more financial stress on the already heavily debt-laden airline. Some European carriers are also struggling to find a compromise between business optimisation and the demands of the pilots. For instance, for some time now Spanish Iberia has been struggling to reach common ground with its crew regarding the plans to establish low-cost airlines with naturally lower salaries for pilots.

Today airlines are squeezed from both inside and outside. The aftermath of Low Cost-model, oil prices and the global economic crises drives carriers to cut their expenditures to the lowest point. With the optimization policies directly affecting the HR management strategies, flight crews are certainly facing salary and benefit cuts. Unsurprisingly, this finds little support within the pilot community, triggering disputes between employers and employees.

Of course, based on labour union agreements, many pilots maintain the right to oppose airlines’ HR-policy alterations in many forms including that of a strike. However, regardless whether the crew refuses to work allowedly or not, airlines are still forced to cancel their flights, often with no certainty about if and when their pilots will return to the cockpits.

‘In many cases pilots have achieved their demands combining strikes and peaceful disputes with airlines. But at the same time, many pilots have lost their jobs due to illegal actions or unreasonable demands. Unfortunately, firing a pilot won’t solve the issue – the aircraft will still stay on ground with no one to fly it. However, today airlines have an opportunity to develop various backup plans to maintain their fleet operating 24/7 no matter what. Amongst others, one of the solutions could be outsourcing pilot recruitment or leasing, especially since third-party crew management agencies such as may handle the issue just in several days,’ commented the CEO of Skaiste Knyzaite.

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