National carrier Air India has sacked 16 air hostesses and a flight purser in the past nine days for not following flight duty time limitation (FDTL) norms.
"The action (against the 17 cabin crew) is not off-handed. The management had been asking them to follow FDTL rules for over six months now but they failed to do so. We took the decision only after the indiscipline crossed the tolerance limits," a senior Air India official said here.
FDTL are guidelines governing the aspects such as the maximum daily flight duty period including flying hours limitations, rest period, staff-on-duty travel and number of landings allowed per pilot as well as the crew.
The Civil Aviation Ministry had in September 2012 directed Air India to immediately implement the FDTL.
Noting that Air India can't be an exception to the flight duty time norms, mandatory across the airlines, the official said these cabin crew wanted duty hours "by their choice and as per the earlier rules agreed with the unions".
"These rules were made at the time when Air India was doing financially well. But now situation is different. We made cabin crew understand this. While most of the people started following the new rules, these people did not. Hence the action," the official said.
The carrier last month issued a general notice, warning crew of serious action including termination, the official said. "We feel that all issues can be sorted out as long as flights are taking off on time. But February was worst for us in terms of on time performance."
As against an industry average of 75 hours of monthly flying, Air India averages only 52 hours on international routes. In domestic sector it is slightly better at 55 hours per month, the official said.
"We can not compete at this average, particularly when we are going to be a part of the Star Alliance. So accountability has to be there," the official said.
Though the Airline cabin crew association had approached the various courts seeking a stay to implementation of the new FDTL, both Bombay and Delhi High courts refused any relief.