In an attempt to induct technical expertise on its board and offer representation to pilots, Air India is planning to offer board-level representation to pilots. An airline official, while confirming that they have written to the government on this, said that this will help in providing technical expertise to the board.
“A lot of us in the board are generalists and getting a pilot on the board would help the board in taking technically sound decisions. Getting a pilot would help us in looking at the various operational, training and other operation-related issues in a wider perspective. Giving them representation may also help in bridging the trust deficit pilots have for the management,” said a board-level official in Air India.
This is a trend followed by the North American carriers, where pilots and cabin crew also own stake in some of them. European carriers like Lufthansa and British Airways also provided such representation till they were government owned.
In India, Air India’s competitor Jet Airways, instead, has a chief operating officer who is a pilot and does not provide representation to pilots. The official added that the selection of a member will be done through an interview and will be conducted by the Public Enterprises Selection Board.
Of the 1,500 pilots Air India has, around 350 of them are executive or management pilots, who are not part of any unions.
However, the airline does not plan to hire any chief operating officer at the moment. “We do not have plans to hire a COO. We recently got a new joint managing director and there is no need to hire any COO,” said the official.
Syed Nasir Ali’s appointment as the joint managing director was cleared by the government in December last year. But the airline is looking at hiring a Chief Operating Officer for Air India Express, a low-cost international subsidiary of the national carrier. “We do not have any plans to hire an expat at AI Express. Our plan is to hire an Indian for the COO’s job at AI Express,” said the official.
The national carrier’s earlier experience of an expat COO was a disaster after he had to unceremoniously go after a newspaper interview, where he blamed the government for airline’s situation.