DGCA Rejects Airline Request to Delay Flight Duty Norms Deadline

Preet Palash

18 Mar 2024

Aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has refused to extend the 1st June deadline by which time airlines have to implement the revised pilot duty hour norms — which are aimed at improving safety by ensuring a fatigued and overworked pilot is not operating your flight.

Airlines had sought a delay saying they didn't have enough staff, more consultation was required etc.

DGCA rejected all the arguments of airlines issuing a point-by-point note to them also adding in it that recent pilot deaths were a cause for alarm.

“The unfortunate instances of pilot deaths in the recent past ostensibly due to punishing roster schedules and consequent cumulative attendant impact on flight crew health and wellbeing is an urgent wake up call to address these issues without further delay… revised FDTL scheme has alleviation of flight crew fatigue as a core philosophy to achieve the intended objective of enhanced flight safety,” the DGCA has told the Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA).

“Our paramount objective is to ensure the safety of the skies… all airlines (should) harmonise their operating policies in tune with this overarching objective… all airlines (should) take all necessary steps towards rollout of the revised FDTL (rules) from June 1, 2024. Revised FDTL schemes congruent with the revised FDTL ay kindly be submitted to DGCA for approval no later than April 15, 2024,” it added.

“The revised FDTL (rule) which is to be implemented with effect from June 1, 2024, is, needless to say, not only drawn from best industry practices worldwide in a prescriptive framework but has also gone a step further to align regulatory frameworks to the specific needs and nature of the operational environment in India… The (revised) provisions may appear either restrictive or liberal, depending on its direct impact on the viewing entity and differing perceptions may be formed when viewed from the eyes of either the airline operators or the pilots. While perceptions may vary, DGCA is primarily concerned in ensuring safe operations and practices that are best suited to the unique operating environment prevailing in India. A generalised and selective comparison of regulations applicable to different jurisdictions may not be useful to draw meaningful inferences in view of the significant differences in operating environments,” the DGCA said.

DGCA has told airlines that their concern about “inadequate industry consultation on the issue” are misplaced. 
“The timeframe for implementation of the revised (rule) was arrived at after taking into account the lead time involved for operators to put in place the necessary change management steps including, but not limited to, crew recruitment and crew training and other attendant logistical arrangements."

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Vistara Asks Pilots to Sign New Contracts

Preet Palash

18 Mar 2024

Vistara has told its pilots to sign on the new contracts offered to them by March 15 or it will be assumed they do not want to migrate to Air India and will be marked so.

The airline which is in the process of merging with Air India has different salary structures than the former state-owned airline.

Vistara also warned its pilots in a note sent internally that they will also not be given a one-time payout as promised if they do not accept the offer by the end of this deadline.

The new salary structure promises a fixed salary for 40 hours of flying time instead of the current 70 hours. 
Many Vistara flights have been delayed this month because some pilots reported sick as they were unhappy with new contracts. The airline has denied this. 

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Domestic Air Traffic Up 5% in Feb

Preet Palash

18 Mar 2024

Domestic air traffic in India surged around 5% in February with 126.48 lakh people flying.

Traffic climbed to 126.48 lakh in February compared to 120.69 lakh in the year-ago period.

The Air India group airlines saw their market share improve to 28.8% up from January's 28.2% because Air India's market share rose to 12.8% from 12.2%.

IndiGo's share marginally dipped to 60.1% from 60.2% in January.

"Passengers carried by domestic airlines during January - February 2024 were 257.78 lakh, as against 246.11 lakh during the corresponding period of the previous year thereby registering an annual growth of 4.74% and monthly growth of 4.80%," DGCA said.

The domestic market share of SpiceJet dropped to 5.2% from 5.6%, Vistara and Akasa Air managed to maintain their share at 9.9% and 4.5% respectively as did Air India Express at 6.1 %.

"The overall cancellation rate of scheduled domestic airlines for the month of February 2024 has been 0.90 per cent," DGCA said.

The cancellation rate was the highest for Zoom at 7.69% while it was the lowest for Akasa Air at 0.30%.

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Air India Express Introduces New Airfare Options

Preet Palash

18 Mar 2024

Air India Express has introduced new airfare options allowing passengers to book without check-in bags or even select business class on its planes.

The new fare family includes four fare products: Xpress Lite (cabin baggage only fares), Xpress Value (15 kg check-in bag fares), Xpress Flex (unlimited changes with no change fees), and Xpress Biz (business class seating with complimentary Gourmair meals and priority services).

Xpress Biz fares are available on all the new Air India Express Boeing 737-8 aircraft.

Its biz seats offer recliner seats with a seat pitch of up to 58 inches and no middle seats in this cabin class, the airline said adding it is inducting nearly 4 new aircraft every month with the biz configuration, with approximately 4 to 8 Biz seats in each aircraft.

Passengers can also enjoy increased baggage allowances of 25kg for domestic flights and 40kg for international flights when booking Xpress Biz fares and choose from a Gourmair hot meals or Lite Bites on short sectors and enjoy complimentary Xpress Ahead priority check-in, baggage, and boarding services.

Air India Express is already operating aircraft with Biz seats across 70+ routes in India, connecting metro cities with other key destinations, it added

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Star Air to Launch New Routes

Preet Palash

18 Mar 2024

Star Air will launch over a dozen routes from the end of this month, the airline said in a statement.

These routes will include Bangalore - Nanded - Delhi (Hindon) - Jalandhar (Adampur) and Hyderabad - Nanded - Ahmedabad - Bhuj

The route connecting Bangalore to Nanded to Delhi (Hindon) to Jalandhar (Adampur) provides a convenient link between South and North India, offering passengers a seamless travel experience with efficient connections. Similarly, the Hyderabad to Nanded to Ahmedabad to Bhuj route connects key cities in the South with vibrant destinations in the West, opening up new possibilities for travellers and businesses alike, the airline added.

Shrenik Ghodawat, MD of Star Air, said, "We are thrilled to announce the expansion of our network with the introduction of flights connecting Nanded to Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Hindon, Adampur, Ahmedabad, and Bhuj, bringing our total destinations to 22. By connecting Nanded with these cities, we aim to facilitate seamless travel for all passengers, fostering growth and accessibility in these regions. We look forward to welcoming passengers on board and
providing them with a comfortable and enjoyable flying experience."

The route will be operated by Embraer E175 with dual-class configuration – 12 business class seats and 64 economy seats.

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United Eyes A321neo Jets Amid MAX 10 Uncertainty

Abhishek Nayar

18 Mar 2024

United Airlines is navigating through a pivotal juncture as it seeks to diversify its fleet amidst uncertainty surrounding Boeing's MAX 10 planes. Recent developments suggest a potential shift towards Airbus A321neo jets, marking a significant strategic move for the airline.

Exploring Alternatives & The Airbus A321neo Option

In light of concerns over the certification of Boeing's MAX 10 planes, United Airlines has been actively seeking alternatives to ensure the stability and efficiency of its fleet. The recent mid-air emergency involving an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 has further fueled doubts surrounding the MAX series.

According to reports from Bloomberg News, United Airlines is on the verge of finalizing a deal with aircraft lessors for the acquisition of three dozen or more Airbus A321neo jets. This move comes as United reevaluates its reliance on Boeing and looks towards Airbus to meet its fleet requirements.

Challenges, Considerations & Strategic Implications

While United Airlines expresses interest in Airbus A321neo jets, challenges loom on the horizon. Airbus's order book is reportedly full through 2030, potentially complicating United's acquisition plans. Additionally, United's CEO, Scott Kirby, emphasizes the airline's commitment to securing A321 jets without overpaying, highlighting the delicate balance between cost-effectiveness and fleet modernization.

United Airlines' potential shift towards Airbus A321neo jets signifies more than just a change in aircraft preference. It reflects the airline's proactive approach to adapt to evolving market dynamics and mitigate risks associated with its fleet composition. By diversifying its fleet suppliers, United aims to enhance operational resilience and capitalize on opportunities for growth.


As United Airlines navigates through a period of uncertainty surrounding Boeing's MAX series, its exploration of Airbus A321neo jets underscores a strategic pivot towards diversification and resilience. The potential acquisition of A321neo aircraft marks a significant milestone in United's fleet modernization efforts, reflecting its commitment to adaptability and strategic foresight in a dynamic aviation landscape.

With Inputs from Reuters