Nepal Airlines permanent pilots warn of resigning en masseThe pilots have demanded that they be treated in a fair manner regarding remunerations on par with expat or contract-based pilots
Nepal Airlines Corporation is bracing for yet another turbulence, as its 25 permanent pilots have warned of quitting en masse if their concerns are not addressed.
In a notice served to the executive chairman of the airline, the pilots have said there is a huge difference in remunerations for them and expat pilots, as their foreign counterparts have been hired on a contract basis and their taxes are being paid by the airline. They have also objected to the airline management's recent move of deducting a “certain amount” from their monthly salary, besides applicable taxes, without any notice.
“The management knows that the remuneration offered by Nepal Airlines to its pilot is too low compared to that offered to pilots of any private domestic or international airlines in Nepal,” reads the notice signed by the dissenting pilots. “Now, without any notice to the crew, an additional amount is being deducted [from our salaries] in the name of ‘staff advance’ though we have never taken any advance from the company.”
The pilots' warning may impact the airline’s operations, at a time when the beleaguered company had just started repaying its loans.
The notice comes days after Nepal Airlines Executive Chairman Madan Kharel resigned.
A senior official at the airline, however, ruled out any big trouble, saying the pilots have just served a notice and that it's not a resignation letter.
"Since we don't have an executive chairman now, I can do nothing," Ganesh Bahadur Chand, deputy managing director at Nepal Airlines, told the Post.
Chand even alleged that the group of pilots that has served the notice is "just bargaining" for a raise.
"But everyone knows the carrier's financial health is not that great," said Chand.
Nepal Airlines currently has 12 foreign pilots. Since the company has switched to Airbus after flying Boeing for years, it lacks pilots to fly the newly acquired A330s.
“The management is happy to hire expensive expat pilots and pilots on contract basis with a much higher salary,” reads the notice served by the disgruntled pilots. “Nothing has been done to replace such expensive pilots with its own in-house pilots or to increase the salary and benefits of its permanent pilots.”
The pilots have also expressed objection to the fact that the airlines is paying all applicable taxes for the expat and contract-based pilots who are already being paid “a good remuneration.” They have also demanded that the airline pay all applicable taxes of the local crew just like it is doing for expat pilots, or convert their services to contract-based with financial benefits on par with the expats.
The airlines, however, said it can hire foreign pilots only on a contract basis, so the dissenting pilots' grievances are baseless.
A Nepal Airlines captain, who spoke on condition of anonymity, however, said the notice from some pilots has nothing to do with expat pilots and it is rather a reactionary move against a recent management decision on internal promotion.
"A junior official has been given the responsibility of the operation department and this group of pilots does not want him there," the captain told the Post. "So remuneration is not an issue.
Nepal Airlines pilots' had their salary had allowances raised some two and a half years ago in June 2017.
Senior pilots' allowance was hiked to Rs5,500 per hour for international routes. A co-pilot gets Rs3,500 per hour.
Likewise, on the domestic sector, the flying allowance of senior pilots was hiked to Rs4,500 per hour. Co-pilots get Rs1,500 per hour.
Following the pay revision, a senior pilot flying international routes draws a gross monthly salary of Rs600,000. A co-pilot draws Rs400,000 per month.
Likewise, senior pilots flying domestic routes can draw up to Rs400,000 per month. Co-pilots flying domestic routes can make up to Rs190,000 per month.
The recent row, however, reflects badly on the image of the national flag carrier, which for years has been a playground for politics and corruption.
The dissenting pilots have given a deadline of three months to the airline’s management to meet their demands.
An official, however, said the pilots’ resignation notice is also a warning against bringing any “outsider” as the executive chairman of Nepal Airlines.
Kharel had resigned as the executive chairman on Sunday, following what multiple sources said a growing rift with Tourism Minister Yogesh Bhattarai.
Read more: The rise and fall of Nepal Airlines