Jet Turbulence: IndiGo Poaches Over 100 Pilots

Hiring Boeing pilots & training them would be less expensive for IndiGo than appointing expatriate pilots.

IndiGo is hiring more than 100 Boeing 737commander level pilots, primarily those exiting Jet Airways, as the country’s biggest airline looks to overcome a flying-crew shortage and establish its dominance amid an exodus of personnel from the financially-stressed airline.

A top industry source aware of IndiGo’s hiring plans said that it would take six months to train the Boeing pilots so that they could fly A320s, an aircraft type IndiGo operates. In addition, the carrier has already hired about 130 expatriate pilots from all over the world. 

India’s biggest airline by market share has had to cancel 30 daily flights primarily due to a shortage of commanders. Indi-Go has over 200 planes and a pilot strength of more than 3,000, including more than 1,200 commanders, of whom 50 are expatriates. It operates about 1,300 daily flights. 

The airline aims to take delivery of 48 planes this year of the Airbus A320neo family, including the stretched 20-25 A321 Planes, which it plans to deploy on the medium haul international routes. 

These new destinations would include Turkey (started Wednesday), Saudi Arabia, China and Vietnam. It has an order for about 430 planes. 

Hiring Boeing pilots and training them would likely be less expensive than appointing expatriate pilots, who charge salaries up to twice their Indian peers. Basic salaries are about $13,000 a month. ET reported on February 14 IndiGo’s plans to hire more than 100 expats to plug its shortfall of commander-level pilots. 

Sydney-based consultant CAPA (Centre for Aviation) estimates the current number of pilots in India at 7,963. In 10 years, airlines will have to hire 17,164 more. Airlines have been trying to lower their expat pilot count to reduce costs — from 10.5% in FY14 to 8.1% in FY18 — but that’s likely to swell again. 

Jet Airways has grounded more than 60% of its planes. It has delayed pilot salaries, and defaulted on loan payments, lease rentals and vendor payments. Its strategic partner Etihad Airways has refused to be part of a revival plan and aims to exit by selling its 24% stake in the carrier and 50.1% in the loyalty programme. 

Source: The Economic Times

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