Air India pilots protest move to hire staff on contract

By: | Published: March 3, 2015 3:45 AM

Air India, which has initiated the process to recruit 197 pilots on contract for its Airbus fleet, has come under severe criticism from its existing...

Air India, which has initiated the process to recruit 197 pilots on contract for its Airbus fleet, has come under severe criticism from its existing pilots for such recruitment as a bulk of its pilots are awaiting opportunities to upgrade from their existing positions.

The Air India pilots union which is recognised by the airline, Indian Commercial Pilot’s Association (ICPA), has written to the chairman of the airline, Rohit Nandan, and the minister of civil aviation, Ashok Gajapathi Raju, as well as other officials of the ministry raising their concern.

“Air India currently has more than enough pilots to fly its planes. While pilots with as many as 7-8 years of experience are not getting upgraded to command position, the airline is planning to bring in pilots from outside on a contract basis. This is wasteful use of resources when the airline is a lossmaking entity and has over Rs 40,000 crore of net debt,” said a senior captain with the airline.

Air India currently has 1,464 pilots in its ranks, while its fleet consists of about 110 aircraft. The airline wants to hire pilots on contract for its Airbus 320 fleet, consisting of 17 aircraft, some of which have been taken on lease.

“While as many as 95 pilots are awaiting for their training to get upgraded to captain’s position, the airline is turning a blind eye to them and looking to hire pilots from outside. This is unfortunate,” said the senior pilot with the airline.

Another pilot with the airline told FE that recent plans of the airline to hire 197 pilots, which is aimed towards bringing down costs, is aimed to sideline the existing pilots whose salary is a significant sum for the airline. “Almost 140 pilots from Air India’s wide bodied fleet have quit in the past year and half due to the indifferent attitude of the airline’s management towards the career progression of the pilots. Most of these pilots have joined Etihad,” the pilot said.

“At present, many Air India pilots, who are supposed to fly 80 hours a month, fly only 50-60 hours a month. The move to hire pilots on contract has further dented the confidence of the airline’s existing pilots who are already under a pay cut of 25% since 2012 due to the airline’s financial woes,” the pilot added.

“At present, about 30% of our cabin crew members log less than 40 hours a month against the mandatory 55 hours that is required from them.

A lot of this can be blamed on poor roster management,” the official said.

Minister of State for civil aviation Mahesh Sharma  on Monday told Parliament that Air India would hire 197 pilots on a contract basis in the next two years to fill up existing positions that will be vacant post retirement of pilots and due to the plans of the airline to augment its fleet.

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