No end to strike; AI to hire new pilots for international routes
The airline may be forced to not only cut some of its loss making routes but also hire new pilots for its international operations under a new business plan.
With no signs of the Air India pilot strike coming to an end, the airline may be forced to not only cut some of its loss making routes but also hire new pilots for its international operations under a new business plan.
Civil aviation ministry sources have reportedly said that the national carrier can no longer afford to continue on routes which do not even pay for the operation's fuel cost. The hiring of new pilots comes in as a part of new business plan for Air India's international operations, which is likely to be announced on Wednesday.
Last week Firstpost had said that Air India has turned to expat pilots sacked recently by Jet Airways to beef up its dwindling numbers. Interestingly, the private carrier had sacked the expats to make room for 'local' pilots. "Air India, which will shift to an "interim plan" to salvage its international operations that have been crippled by a 24-day-old pilots' strike, is looking to recruit around 50-60 sacked Jet expat pilots to operate a small international schedule, an Economic Times report said.
The new hiring process will start as soon as necessary go-aheads are granted by aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
Air India has sacked 101 of the 400 agitating pilots, who are demanding exclusive rights to fly Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. The airline has not taken delivery of the aircraft so far.
According to a study done by the airline, only two operations out of the 175 routes flown by the airline recovers the complete cost of the flight. In the 173 routes, the airline loses money either in the form of forgoing fuel costs, cash cost or total cost. The non-profitable routes, as per the ministry, are those in which operational costs are not recovered or operational costs are recovered but total costs are not.
The new plan comes two days after the government pumped in Rs 1,200 crore as additional equity in the cash-strapped carrier. The additional funds are part of the Rs 30,000 crore infusion plan, which is to be implemented over next nine years so long as the airline keeps meeting set financial and operational parameters for a complete turnaround.
With this infusion, the airline would pay Rs 250 crore as salary to all employees, barring the pilots who have been on strike since May 7. The rest would be used to pay tax dues and those to vendors like airport operators and oil companies.
The new business plan includes the long-haul sectors on which Air India would operate flights as soon as the Boeing 787 Dreamliners are inducted, the sources said.
The airline is also getting back soon an Airbus A-330, which was grounded for repairs. This aircraft is likely to be used for resuming operations to destinations like Shanghai and Tokyo which are not covered now under the truncated schedule, they said.
The crisis-ridden national carrier intends to implement the new business plan soon to streamline its global operations, especially to North America and Europe.
The airline is currently operating 75 per cent of its international flights, or 38 of the 45 two-way services it normally flies globally.
Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh had recently said Air India, which was losing an average of Rs 10-15 crore daily due to the IPG strike, was seeking to reduce this loss to Rs five -six crore a day by operating a truncated international schedule.
"The less you fly, the less you lose", he had quipped, saying that the airline had, in fact, contained its losses by not operating on loss-making foreign routes.
The business plan, which would include hiring of new pilots, has been prepared after reviewing the airline operations on all routes, particularly in the international sector where it was making losses or was not able to recover even the fuel costs.
The new flight schedule would be submitted to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) soon for approval.
"One thing is clear. The government will not give more public money to Air India. This Rs 30,000 crore (infusion over nine years) is their last chance to perform or perish," Singh had said.
With inputs from Agencies
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"We plan to operate the first international flight to Frankfurt, from 15 October. This will be followed by other operations to Europe and Japan," a senior Air India official said.
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the latest acquisition of Air India, is likely to shore up the fortune of India's national carrier as passengers are giving big thumbs up after travelling in the next generation flying machine.