A body of India's airline pilots has demanded "frontline worker" status to its members, seeking all Covid-related benefits that go with the tag. This includes priority vaccination, insurance coverage, and compensation. To bolster its claim, it has cited 17 pandemic-related deaths in this segment over the past year -- 13 of them since February 2021 alone.
The Federation of Indian Pilots, in a plea filed before the Bombay High Court, has sought the creation of a separate category, "Air Transportation Workers", under the 'frontline worker' tag.
"To date, there is no scheme for adequate compensation to pilots in case of their demise. There is no insurance or any other such scheme providing a safety net to pilots. Hence, by this petition filed in public interest, the petitioner seeks to agitate the cause of pilots who have rendered incessant national service for the past more than 14 months," a statement from the federation has said.
The body has 5,619 members working for airlines such as Air India, SpiceJet, IndiGo, Reliance Commercial, Go Air, Saudia, and Vistara.
In Air India alone, 1,995 personnel had tested positive with 583 needing hospitalisation till February this year. Over 2.21 million passengers were repatriated through the airline's 16,306 Vande Bharat flights till that month.
The pilots now want the government to define air insurance payable to those of them operating scheduled and non-scheduled Vande Bharat flights.
Besides priority vaccination, the pilots have demanded death or permanent medical unfitness compensation under the government's new insurance schemes, independent of any other life insurance policies they may have.
The Union Ministry of Health had in April 2020 announced life insurance schemes for health care workers who had succumbed to Covid.
In April and May, the Federation had made representations requesting that pilots be treated as frontline workers.