The High Court of Delhi has held that Air India must reinstate 41 pilots who resigned in 2019 then attempted to rescind their resignations in 2020 after the pandemic struck the world.
Court Rules Air India Must Reinstate Pilots Who Quit, Regretted It, Then Demanded To Come Back During Pandemic
In late 2019, several pilots at Air India submitted notice of resignation, presumably because they had lined up or wished to search for more rewarding opportunities elsewhere. But in March 2020, COVID-19 shut the world down and with it, the global demand for air travel.
41 pilots proceeded to rescind their notice of resignation, despite several months passing. When Air India refused to reinstate them, citing the pandemic, they sued. Now the High Court of Delhi has sided with them.
In her ruling, Justice Jyoti Singh ordered:
- The pilots be reinstated
- Backpay be provided (commensurate with the pay cuts active duty employees accepted during the pandemic)
- Seniority be reinstated
The pilots had argued there is a traditional six-month window in which notices of resignation are considered and can be pulled back. Furthermore, the pilots argued Air India never accepted their decision to resign until they attempted to rescind it (Air India sent the pilots a note in August 2020, five months after they rescinded their resignation, accepting their resignation).
Last autumn, the High Court prodded Air India to treat those pilots with “sympathy” but Air India ignored that suggestion. Instead, Air India argued that 90% of its crew was grounded, losses were rapidly mounting, and the carrier could simply not afford to pay or keep pilots who had resigned when 90% of the pilots left were not even needed.
But now the High Court has not merely suggested, but compelled Air India to reinstate the pilots, though it claims that going forward their employment security could be based upon “merit” and not simply longevity.
While pilots may have had many reasons for wishing to come back to Air India, it is not unreasonable to ask whether they attempted to come back when they could find no other work elsewhere. That may be permitted under law and contract, but helps to explain why Air India remains such a basket case of state-run carrier.
image: Simon Boddy / Wikimedia Commons