Intensifying competition in the Indian airspace between incumbents and new carriers has led to an immediate demand for 500 pilots, according to multiple airline officials. However, it would appear there is enough supply to meet the demand.
Market leader IndiGo is looking for 250 pilots of which over 100 are Delhi-based positions, a person familiar with IndiGo’s plans said. Indigo has advertised vacancies on billboards in Mumbai and Delhi and a spokesman for the airline said it received 4,000 applications on the first day. “AirAsia, Vistara and Spicejet need around 60-70 additional pilots each,” this person said.
The demand excludes recruitment plans of Etihad, Qatar and Oman Air, which have been regularly hiring senior pilots. It’s more the six new airlines, including Air One and Easy Air, looking to commence operations in 2015-16, that are building up their teams.
The likes of AirAsia India—the joint venture between Malaysia’s AirAsia, Tata Sons and Arun Bhatia’s Telestra Tradeplace—and Air Costa have already started flying and are looking to expand. Others like Vistara, a joint venture between Singapore Airlines and Tata Sons, is looking to begin operations by the end of this calendar year.
These carriers, along with sa couple of cash-rich Middle Eastern airlines, are poaching talent from Jet Airways, IndiGo, and SpiceJet. Sources said the demand is particularly high for senior commanders. In commercial aviation, narrow-bodied aircraft like Airbus 320 or Boeing 737 need at least 12 pilots for optimal usage, while wide-bodied aircraft require around 20 pilots.
IndiGo, which has 650 pilots on its payrolls, has lost several of its senior pilots to Gulf-based airlines as well as domestic rivals like like AirAsia India. An IndiGo spokesperson confirmed that it had lost at least 25 senior pilots to Gulf-based airlines in the last six to nine months. These pilots opted to take up jobs with these Middle-Eastern carriers since they offered much higher and tax-free salaries, since individuals in a lot of countries in that region are exempted from paying income tax.
Indigo has advertised vacancies on billboards in Mumbai and Delhi. A spokesman for the airline said said that on the first day of advertising, the company received 4,000 applications. IndiGo is adding pilots to meet its fleet expansion needs.
Till a year back, the aviation sector was struggling to grow with pilots being laid off, especially after Kingfisher was grounded in 2012. “After two tough years, the sector is growing and many incumbent airlines are restructuring operations. Industry watchers say SpiceJet has witnessed the departure of about 80 pilots, who have joined airlines like Oman Air.
The ministry of civil aviation’s stated intention of doing away with the rule whereby a carrier needs to have at five years of domestic flying experience and at least 20 aircraft in its fleet to be eligible to fly internationally (known as the 5/20 rule) will create an additional demand of around 100-200 pilots for Vistara, one of the persons said.
The churn in manpower in the sector is also aided by the fact that Jet Airways announced in August that it would operate under a single brand and do away with its no-frill carrier JetLite by December. Though JetLite pilots had been given the option to join the parent carrier, pilots were sceptical of the conditions of the offer that entailed foregoing prior flying experience and joining at the bottom of the rank. JetLite has around 189 pilots. FE reported on September 30 that 70 JetLite pilots have quit to join Vistara and AirAsia.
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