Akasa Air has upped the ante against pilots who left the airline to join Air India Express without serving 6 months notice period.

Akasa Air has filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court seeking penal action against 36 such pilots. Directorate General of Civil Aviation is the respondent in the writ petition and it is expected to be heard on Tuesday.

The writ petition follows the airline’s decision to sue six of its pilots in the Bombay High Court. Akasa Air has claimed training expenses and those incurred due to operational and reputational loss of up to ₹22 crore from the defendant pilots in its suit before the Bombay High Court.

DGCA had in 2017 stipulated notice period  a minimum of 6 months for pilots to ensure that mass exits do not hurt airlines. Airlines have framed their own policies based on DGCA’s 2017 rule.

However, pilot unions challenged the DGCA's notice period rule. The Delhi High Court is yet to pronounce a final decision on it. An interim order of 2018 which asks DGCA not to take any coercive action still remains in effect. This interim direction was subject to both airlines and pilots complying respective contract conditions

During a hearing on Monday, DGCA counsel Anjana Gosain pointed out that the 2017 rule has been challenged by pilot unions and urged the court to call for files related to the subject. Akasa Air did not respond to query regarding the writ petition on Monday.

“We have sought legal remedy only against a small set of pilots who abandoned their duties and left without serving their mandatory contractual notice period. This was not only in violation of their contract but also the country’s civil aviation regulation. Not only is this illegal in law but also an unethical and selfish act that disrupted flights in August forcing last-minute cancellations that stranded thousands of customers causing significant inconvenience to the travelling public,” Akasa Air said in a statement on Saturday.

On their part, pilots allege breaches by the airline. A former pilot said Akasa Air reduced their salary and flying allowance, a claim the airline denies.

Pilots also complained of bias and said only those close to the management were given upgrades and promotions. Pilots were also unhappy that the airline did not set up Delhi and Mumbai bases soon enough. “Flight schedules were also very tiring. All early and late arrival patterns,” a former Akasa Air pilot complained.